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Holmgren talk builds

He meets with Browns again

MIKE HOLMGREN Wants back in NFL MIKE HOLMGREN
Wants back in NFL
Associated Press / December 16, 2009

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The Cleveland Browns may have finally found their leader.

Former Seattle and Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren, with one Super Bowl title and success brimming from his NFL résumé, spent his second day meeting with Browns owner Randy Lerner about running the team’s football operations.

However, as of last night there was no indication of a deal. In an e-mail to the Associated Press, Lerner suggested the sides were still talking but gave no specifics.

Holmgren arrived Monday after being invited by Lerner, who wants to hire a proven executive to take over his team. The two met and had dinner with associates. Holmgren was back at the team’s facility in Berea, Ohio, yesterday along with agent Bob LaMonte.

The length of Holmgren’s stay - and LaMonte’s inclusion - points to his strong interest in taking over the Browns (2-11), who have struggled since returning to the league as an expansion team in 1999. Cleveland has had four coaches, just two winning seasons, and one playoff appearance in 11 years.

Browns coach Eric Mangini, whose future could hinge on whom the Browns hire, told WTAM that he met with Holmgren.

“I have a ton of respect for Mike, and we’ll see where it goes,’’ Mangini told the club’s flagship radio station. “They are still in the early stages and everyone is getting to know each other.’’

Holmgren, 61, took a sabbatical after the 2008 season to spend more time with his family. But he’s been itching to get back into pro football, and recently told a Seattle radio station he found Cleveland’s front office job appealing.

Fitzgerald may play
An MRI on Larry Fitzgerald’s right knee revealed only a slight sprain and a bone bruise after the Cardinals’ All-Pro wide receiver was injured in Monday night’s 24-9 loss at San Francisco. Fitzgerald said he was “sore but straight,’’ and could play Sunday at Detroit as Arizona looks to wrap up the NFC West.

The Cardinals (8-5) committed seven turnovers in the loss to the 49ers (6-7), which gave San Francisco a series sweep and potential division tiebreaker.

“Last time I did the math, if we win two more it doesn’t really matter what else happens, right?’’ Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “If we take care of what’s in front of us, then it doesn’t make a difference.’’

Wounded Colts
Pro Bowl defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis missed the Colts’ practice, making them uncertain for tomorrow’s game at Jacksonville.

Colts coach Jim Caldwell has said his “healthy’’ starters will play. But Freeney (abdomen) and Mathis (quadriceps) were among a half-dozen players who missed practice after playing Sunday against Denver. The others were cornerback Jerraud Powers (left hamstring), safety Antoine Bethea (foot), defensive lineman Eric Foster (back), and left tackle Charlie Johnson (foot).

The other four who missed practice - receiver Anthony Gonzalez (knee), kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee), running back Donald Brown (chest), and safety Aaron Francisco (ankle) - did not play Sunday.

Ware feeling better
Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware said his sprained neck felt “100 percent better’’ but he did not practice and will undergo more tests before the team decides whether he will be available to play against unbeaten New Orleans Saturday night. Ware is supposed to have X-rays, an MRI, and other tests today to see if the swelling is gone and to make sure there are no problems. “If he’s cleared medically then he could play,’’ coach Wade Phillips said. “There’s a possibility that could happen.’’ Ware was immobilized on the field Sunday against San Diego and taken to a hospital as a precaution . . . Nick Folk’s fifth straight game with a missed field goal for the Cowboys has created some kicking competition. Folk and kickoff specialist David Buehler alternated field goal attempts during practice, a ploy coaches hope will help Folk change his routine and help him snap out of a slump. Folk has missed six of his last nine kicks.

Waive goodbye
Temperamental guard Richie Incognito was released by the Rams, two days after he was benched by coach Steve Spagnuolo for drawing two personal foul penalties in a loss at Tennessee. Incognito, who has 44 career starts, all with St. Louis, was named the dirtiest player in the NFL earlier this year by The Sporting News . . . Steelers left guard Chris Kemoeatu will sit out Sunday’s game against Green Bay with right wrist and right knee injuries. Safety Troy Polamalu will miss a fifth consecutive game with a sprained left knee . . . Right tackle Jeff Otah became Carolina’s 10th player to go on injured reserve this season. Otah hurt his left knee in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots.

Viking suspended
Vikings backup linebacker Erin Henderson was suspended for four games by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The suspension covers Minnesota’s final three regular-season games and first playoff game. The NFL does not specify the substances for which players test positive . . . According to a police report, Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux was smoking marijuana as he and a friend were driving through the northeast Atlanta suburbs last week. Gwinnett County police stopped Babineaux’s 2005 Cadillac Escalade Thursday night after a routine traffic stop because the tag lights were out and the windows were tinted darker than the law allowed, and an officer noticed the smell of marijuana. The police report said Babineaux admitted smoking from a marijuana blunt at least once during the drive on a busy highway. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will decide whether Babineaux will face a four-game suspension because of the arrest.

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