Sports Update

Jan. 29, 2002 at 12:15 AM
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In Sports from United Press International

New England QB decision Wednesday

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- New England Coach Bill Belichick said on his arrival at the site of Super Bowl XXXVI Monday that it would be another 48 hours before he would decide on who would start at quarterback against the St. Louis Rams.

As Super Bowl week got underway, the question of whether it would be Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe at quarterback was No. 1 on the agenda.

The first seven questions Belichick was asked at his arrival news conference Monday dealt with the quarterback situation. Brady left Sunday's AFC Championship game in the second quarter with an injured left ankle and Bledsoe, who had not played in four months, came on and helped the Patriots to their upset win over Pittsburgh.

Brady replaced an injured Bledsoe in the second week of the season and had started every game since.

"I'll make the announcement about the starting quarterback after practice on Wednesday," Belichick said. "I'm just not in a position to do it right now. There are a number of things that are involved. I will just wait until Wednesday to try to clear it up."

Belichick admitted Monday that Brady could have returned in the second half of Sunday's game, but that he chose to stay with Bledsoe, who threw a touchdown pass on his fourth play of the game to give the Patriots a 14-3 lead.

Whether it's Brady or Bledsoe, the Patriots have been listed as 14-point underdogs against the explosive Rams. The San Francisco 49ers were the biggest Super Bowl favorite at 19 points when they routed the San Diego Chargers, 49-26, in 1994.

While most of the early talk centered around Brady's ankle, there was still the questions surrounding the sore ribs of St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner. Warner received a pain-killing injection prior to the Rams' victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He threw for 212 yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia, but St. Louis Coach Mike Martz turned that game over to running back Marshall Faulk in the second half.

Martz received some good news Monday on the status of offensive lineman Orlando Pace, a Pro Bowler who suffered a strained right MCL in the first half of the NFC championship game but played through it.

The teams settled in after their arrival Monday to prepare for the first big event of the week on Tuesday -- a meeting with the media in the Superdome. Additional news conferences are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday amidst the most intense security in Super Bowl history.

West Virginia coach on medical leave

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., Jan. 29 (UPI) -- West Virginia announced Monday that basketball coach Gale Catlett is taking an indefinite medical leave of absence from his struggling team.

Catlett did not disclose the nature of his medical problems but will not be on the sidelines for Wednesday's home game against Providence. West Virginia (7-11) has lost nine straight games and is 0-6 in Big East Conference play.

Assistant Drew Catlett, the coach's son, will lead the team in his father's absence. The younger Catlett has no head coaching experience.

Gale Catlett, the winningest basketball coach in school history, owns a 438-272 record in 24 years in Morgantown. A 1963 graduate of West Virginia, he has had just two losing seasons during his tenure with the Mountaineers.

Chargers to name Schottenheimer coach

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Former Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer appears to have found a new job as coach of the San Diego Chargers.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday that Schottenheimer has reached an agreement in principle with the Chargers on a four-year deal that would pay him between $4.5 million and $5 million over the first three years.

The newspaper added that offensive coordinator Norv Turner will excercise his option to get out of the final three years of his four-year contract once Schottenheimer is signed.

The 58-year-old Schottenheimer would become the team's fifth head coach in seven years, replacing Mike Riley, who was fired on New Year's Eve after going 14-34 in three seasons. Schottenheimer apparently became the front-runner for the job two weeks ago when Bill Parcells spurned the Chargers shortly before turning down the vacancy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Washington Redskins fired Schottenheimer on January 13 with three years and $7.5 million in base salary left on his contract. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder would have to make up the difference in the new contract. Schottenheimer was dismissed following an 8-8 season and Snyder replaced him with former University of Florida coach Steve Spurrier.

The Chargers have not had a winning season or appeared in the playoffs since 1995 and was a franchise worst 1-15 this past season. But ownership thinks Schottenheimer is the safest candidate to turn things around.

The Redskins lost their first five games under Schottenheimer this past season and many veterans referred to his practice sessions as a boot camp. But after defensive end Bruce Smith met with Schottenheimer to voice the players' displeasure, the coach modified his approach and Washington reeled off five consecutive wins to move into playoff contention. However, the Redskins lost three of their next four games before closing the season with two wins.

Schottenheimer had been out of football for two years before taking the Redskins job. He ranks 11th all-time with 153 NFL wins but never has been to a Super Bowl and is 5-11 in the postseason. He was 101-58-1 as coach of the Kansas City Chiefs from 1989-98 and 44-27 as coach of the Cleveland Browns from 1984-88.

The 49-year-old Turner was hoping to succeed Riley in San Diego, but instead will move elsewhere. There is speculation that Turner could become the offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, unless Tampa Bay calls him about their vacancy.

Falcons dumping defensive coordinator

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga., Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The Atlanta Falcons announced Monday that they will not retain Defensive Coordinator Don Blackmon.

Blackmon coached the Falcons linebackers from 1997-2000 before being promoted to Defensive Coordinator following the retirement of Rich Brooks last season.

Blackmon, 43, played seven seasons (1981-87) as a linebacker for the New England Patriots after being a fourth-round draft choice out of Tulsa. He started 72 of 89 games played for the Patriots and totaled 541 tackles, 30.5 sacks and five interceptions before his career was cut short due to a neck injury suffered in a game against the Raiders.

He was a member of New England's 1985 AFC Championship team that played the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX.

Blackmon's coaching career began in 1988 as he tutored the linebackers under Hall of Famer Raymond Berry in New England. After three seasons, he moved on to coach linebackers in 1991 for the Cleveland Browns under Bill Belichick. In 1993, he was hired by Dan Reeves as linebackers coach with the New York Giants.

Hingis and Seles in Pan Pacific Open

TOKYO, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Top seed Martina Hingis of Switzerland and third seed Monica Seles of the United States return to action this week at the $1.2 million Pan Pacific Open.

No. 6 Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria and No. 8 Amanda Coetzer of South Africa will be the first seeds on court Tuesday when the first round begins at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in this Tier I event.

Hingis and Seles squared off last Thursday in the semifinals of the Australian Open. After battling back, Hingis held on for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory to reach her sixth consecutive final at Melbourne Park.

Hingis wasted four championship points Saturday as world No. 1 Jennifer Capriati rallied from a one-set, 0-4 hole to win her second straight Australian Open title against the Swiss star.

A three-time winner and finalist the last five years at the Pan Pacific Open, Hingis will be gunning for her second title of the year. The 21-year-old defeated Meghann Shaughnessy on January 12 to capture the adidas International crown at Sydney.

Hingis lost to Lindsay Davenport a year ago in the Tokyo final. Seles never has reached the final here. She advanced to the semifinals in her last appearance in 1999, losing to Coetzer.

Hingis, Seles and the other top four seeds received first-round byes at this event.

No. 2 Jelena Dokic of Yugoslavia will make her WTA Tour season debut after winning three titles and going 53-23 last year.

Fourth seed Sandrine Testud of France is looking to bounce back from a disappointing Australian Open, where she was upset by compatriot Nathalie Dechy in the opening round. Her lone title of 2001 came at the Big Island Championships in Hawaii.

El Aynaoui, Rusedski advance

MILAN, Italy, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco and Greg Rusedski of Britain, already in the hunt for a second ATP title in 2002, each collected victories Monday at the Milan Indoor tennis tournament.

El Aynaoui, the fifth seed, rallied to beat Kristian Pless of Austria, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) in the first round. Rusedski, seeded seventh, had a much easier time against Francisco Clavet of Spain, 7-5, 5-3, on the carpet in the northern Italian city.

El Aynaoui captured the Qatar Open title at Doha during the opening week of the year. He also was forced to rally in that final, overcoming Spain's Felix Mantilla in three sets.

Rusedski took the Heineken Open crown on January 12 at Auckland, New Zealand. The British Davis Cup player battled past France's Jerome Golmard to win his 11th ATP title.

Another Moroccan, eighth seed Hicham Arazi, made his way into the second round. He held off Russian Mikhail Youzhny, 7-6 (7-1), 2-6, 6-3.

In other action, Frenchman Nicolas Escude posted a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback win over Belgian Olivier Rochus; Russian Nikolay Davydenko dropped the opening set before getting past Brazilian Fernando Meligeni, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3; and Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic outlasted Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Rangers sign Valdes, Seanez

ARLINGTON, Texas, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The Texas Rangers added to their growing stable of pitchers Monday by signing righthanders Ismael Valdes and Rudy Seanez.

The pair mark the 10th and 11th new pitchers signed by John Hart since taking over as general manager in November. Hart is desperate to improve a team that ranked last in the major leagues last season with a 5.71 ERA.

The 28-year-old Valdes agreed to a major league contract at undisclosed terms. Plagued by hamstring and arm injuries, Valdes compiled a 9-13 record and a 4.45 ERA for the Anaheim Angels last season.

Seanez agreed to terms on a contract with Class AAA Oklahoma with an invitation spring training. He was a combined 0-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 38 relief appearances for the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves last season.

Once considered one of the Los Angeles Dodgers' top pitching prospects, Valdes won 10 or more games for four consecutive seasons from 1995-98. He pitched 225 innings and won 15 games in 1996. However, he has pitched more than 200 innings only once since then and has not won more than 11 games in a season.

Seanez, 33, bounced back last season after recovering from elbow surgery in June of 2000. He began his career with Cleveland in 1989. The righthander is 16-13 with a 4.32 ERA and 11 saves in 242 appearances with Cleveland, San Diego, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

Devils fire coach despite successes

WEST ORANGE, N.J., Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The New Jersey Devils Monday fired Coach Larry Robinson despite his winning the Stanley Cup in 2000 and coming within one win of doing it again last year.

He was replaced by former Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks Coach KevinConstantine.

Impatient General Mmanager Lou Lamoriello was not pleased with This season's 21-20-7-3 record. The Devils are currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for the final postseason berth.

New Jersey is 1-2-1 on a five-game road trip that includes losses to Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Furtherr, the Devils were sluggish in a 2-2 tie at Minnesota on Saturday.

Robinson became the second coach with impressive recent success to lose his job. Ken Hitchcock was fired as coach of the Dallas Stars on Friday despite leading the franchise to five straight division titles and a Stanley Cup.

Iverson, Nowitzki NBA Players of Week

NEW YORK, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki were named Monday as NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week.

Iverson was honored for a second straight week and third time this season. He led the 76ers to a 3-1 record over the past seven days, averaging 37.0 points, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals. He registered a FleetCenter-record 47 points in a 106-90 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday.

Nowitzki, who scored 39 points in Dallas' 113-105 victory over New Jersey on January 21, led the Mavericks to a 4-0 record last week, averaging 29.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.25 blocks.

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