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NFL: WEEK 12

Dallas boots kicker

Parcells cuts ties with Vanderjagt

The Dallas Cowboys released Mike Vanderjagt yesterday, apparently tired of his inability to live up to his reputation as the most accurate kicker in league history. Martin Gramatica was signed as his replacement.

The Cowboys gave Vanderjagt a $2.5 million bonus as part of a three-year, $5.4 million contract to shore up a position coach Bill Parcells felt cost the team three wins last season.

However, he was injured and inconsistent in training camp, plus reluctant to handle kickoffs. Parcells never seemed to warm to him and he was only 13 for 18 on field goals, the lowest success rate (72 percent) of his career.

The veteran Gramatica was out of the NFL last season and was cut by the Patriots in the preseason. He played three games this season for Indianapolis, making his only attempt, a 20-yarder.

Cutler gets nod
Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan ended speculation by officially elevating rookie Jay Cutler to starting quarterback for the rest of the year, sending Jake Plummer to the bench.

"He's our future, he's our present," Shanahan said.

Cutler, the 11th pick out of Vanderbilt in the draft last April, hasn't taken a snap since the preseason. But Shanahan is hoping a quarterback change can ignite the Broncos' struggling offense. The team is 7-4, but is 26th in the league in yards passing per game.

Vick apologizes
Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who flashed an obscene hand gesture toward fans after a 31-13 home loss to New Orleans Sunday, apologized. "I would have never thought that six years into my career I would ever do something like that," Vick said. "It will never happen again. Never." . . . An embarrassed Braylon Edwards blamed "my passion for the game" for a showy sideline tantrum during the third quarter of the Cleveland Browns' 30-0 loss to the Bengals, a Terrell Owens-like display for the second-year wide receiver.

Surgery for Ward
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and will miss at least one game . . . Third-string cornerback Cletis Gordon was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving early yesterday in San Diego, the sixth run-in with the law by a Chargers player since April . . . Shawne Merriman returned to the Chargers from his four-game steroid suspension.

Fox sticks with QB
Jake Delhomme will remain the Carolina Panthers' starting quarterback, coach John Fox said. The Panthers mustered only 264 yards in a 17-13 loss to Washington, which has the 30th-ranked defense . . . The Colts, who have been without wide receiver Brandon Stokley for most of the season, have signed veteran free agent Ricky Proehl, 38, according to Proehl's agent . . . The NFL moved the Dec. 10 game between the Saints and Cowboys to Sunday night. The Buffalo at the Jets game was switched from 1 p.m. to 4:15 . . . Casey Coleman, who did play-by-play for the Browns and covered the city's other sports teams for nearly 30 years, died yesterday at age 55 of pancreatic cancer.

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