Bears a mess but make no promises

Chicago Bears: Their quarterback situation a mess, the Bears will bring in Tim Couch for a physical and a tryout Friday.

Starter Rex Grossman is out for the season with a knee
injury and backup Jonathan Quinn has struggled in two starts.
Rookie Craig Krenzel and Chad Hutchinson, who started nine games
for the Cowboys as a rookie in 2002, are also in the mix. Krenzel is getting 40 percent of the work in practice.

Couch, first pick in the 1999 draft by the Browns, was released in June and signed with the Packers. But bothered by a sore arm and a difficulty grasping the offense, he completed just 11 of 34 passes for 96 yards in three preseason games for Green Bay and was cut Sept. 5.

"He was injured early. He's well now, so we want to give him a
physical and see exactly where he is. Let him work out and see
exactly where he is there and kind of go from there," Bears coach
Lovie Smith said Thursday.

"Hopefully he will have a great workout and we'll try to do
something with him. But right now it's nothing more than a physical
and a workout."

Couch started 59 games for the Browns, passing for 64 touchdowns
and 11,131 yards, but his $7.6 million contract for 2004 made him
expendable when the Browns signed free agent Jeff Garcia to be their starter.

Philadelphia Eagles: With Mark Simoneau sidelined by a foot injury, Jeremiah Trotter is getting ready for his first start at middle linebacker since returning to the team.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Trotter has mainly been a special teams contributor this season. He spent the last two days practicing with the first-team defense for Sunday's game against the Browns.

"It felt good being back out there, being the quarterback on defense, looking into guys' eyes," Trotter said. "It felt like I belonged."

Trotter spent his first four seasons in Philadelphia, establishing himself as one of the best players at his position. He had 202 tackles in his second season in 1999, and went to the Pro Bowl the next two years.

So far, he has been Philadelphia's top player on special teams,
recording 11 tackles and recovering an onside kick in Sunday's 30-8
win over Carolina.

Buffalo Bills: Travis Henry expects to be Buffalo's starting running back at Baltimore on Sunday after missing last week's game with a sprained left foot.

Henry practiced for the second straight day and said he's feeling much better even though he's still experiencing some pain.

"Give and take, yeah, there's a little pain here and there," he said. "But for the most part, I feel way better than I did last week. ... It's well enough so I can play."

The Bills continue to list him as questionable.

Henry was hurt in the first quarter but returned to play in Buffalo's 16-14 loss at the Jets on Oct. 10. He was kept active in Buffalo's 20-13 win over Miami last Sunday, but would have only played in an emergency. Instead, Willis McGahee got his first start and rushed for 111 yards.

Henry's expected return would relegate McGahee to a secondary role. McGahee, the Bills' first-round pick in 2003, missed his entire rookie season recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. Coach Mike Mularkey has not said who will start, but earlier this week said Henry will retain his No. 1 job when healthy.

Extension for assistant: Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray signed a contract extension. Terms were not immediately available, but Gray was entering the final year of his contract.

Gray is in his fourth season in Buffalo. He was one of only three position coaches retained by the Bills after they hired coach Mike Mularkey last January following Gregg Williams' dismissal.

Carolina Panthers: Linebacker Mark Fields is ready to play Sunday against San Diego after missing two games with a back injury.

Fields, who sat out all of last year battling Hodgkin's disease,
left in the first quarter of the Panthers' game Oct. 3 against
Atlanta and has not played since. He blamed himself, saying he hurt his back worse by trying to rush back to action.

"I kind of pressed the issue last week before the Philadelphia
game and in practice," he said Thursday. "The coaches were like,
`You know what Mark, if you play and re-injure it, it could mean
surgery.' That was eight to 10 weeks ... so we are gradually easing back into it."

Fields' injury started as spasms until trainers discovered a
bulging disc that required two epidurals. He said he suffered the
first setback after the first shot by trying to practice the next day.

Carolina (1-4) needs Fields to come back to lift its slumping defense. The Panthers have lost three straight games and have struggled against the run. Fields has the power, although he'll be making his return against LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the most versatile backs Carolina will face this season. Tomlinson leads the AFC in yards from scrimmage with 724 (535 rushing, 189 receiving).

New York Giants: Tiki Barber is aware the Lions haven't allowed a running back to rush for 100 yards this season. In fact, the best performance was 78 yards in the second week of the season by the Texans' Domanick Davis.

Barber's 577 yards rushing is fifth in the league, only 36 yards behind Curtis Martin of the Jets. Barber has rushed for more than 100 yards in four of the five games, including the last three.

"It's going to be a challenge for us," Barber said as the Giants (4-1) prepared for Sunday's game against the Lions (3-2) at Giants Stadium. New York is coming off a bye week.

Martin and Barber have only played five games. The other three
players between them -- Chris Brown of Tennessee, Clinton Portis of
Washington and Deuce Staley of Pittsburgh -- all have played six games.

Barber isn't concerned about where he ranks. He is more concerned about the Lions and their big front four that features Cory Redding, Dan Wilkinson, Shaun Rogers and James Hall.

"I know we are going to have to do some special things and I am going to have to make some special plays for us to win," said Barber, who had 182 yards against Green Bay three weeks ago and 122 against Dallas two weeks ago.

New Orleans Saints: Cornerback Fakhir Brown and rookie defensive end Will Smith are expected to replace injured cornerback Ashley Ambrose (knee) and Darren Howard (knee) for Sunday's game at Oakland.

Brown, who started six games with the Chargers in 1999 and 2000, will be making his first start with the Saints. He'll
start at right cornerback and Mike McKenzie will make his second
consecutive start at left corner.

Ambrose has a slightly torn ligament in his left knee. It does not require surgery.

Cleveland Browns: Cornerback Anthony Henry's assignment Sunday will be to cover Terrell Owens, Philadelphia's mouthy wide receiver as famous for creative end-zone celebrations after scoring a touchdown as his gaudy stats or opinions.

"I'm looking forward to it," Henry said. "But it's nothing special or anything."

Even going up against Owens, whose personal attacks on Browns
quarterback Jeff Garcia have added spice to this week's matchup?

"I look at each week as a challenge no matter who I play," Henry said. "Every receiver out there is a talent. I can't look at him [Owens] any different."

Quietly, Henry has been playing the best football of his pro career this season. He enters the game between the Browns (3-3) and Eagles (5-0) with three interceptions, tying for the league lead and matching his entire total of the past two seasons.

Pro Bowl deal announced: The state will pay the NFL $4.75 million for the right to host the Pro Bowl in 2005 and $4 million for each of the next four years after that under terms of a new contract to keep the league's all-star game in Hawaii through 2009, officials said.

State officials and the NFL formally announced the new five-year
contract at a news conference at the Hawaii Tourism Authority

Jim Steeg, the NFL's senior vice president of special events,
told The Associated Press on Wednesday that under the new contract
the state pays less money in host fees but turns over control of
concessions, souvenirs, parking and advertising at Aloha Stadium to
the league.

The current Pro Bowl contract was scheduled to expire after the
2005 game, with the state paying $5.6 million in host fees, up from
$5.3 million paid for the 2004 game. The new deal restructures
the cost for 2005 and extends the contract through 2009.