Originally created 02/11/99

NFL notes: Bears replace McCaskey



LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Michael McCaskey was replaced as president of the Chicago Bears on Wednesday following the team's second straight 4-12 season and a bungled coaching announcement.

Virginia McCaskey, McCaskey's mother and the daughter of team founder George Halas, said Ted Phillips, the team's vice president of operations, is the new president. Michael McCaskey will become chairman of the board.

Michael McCaskey described Phillips as "bright, hard-working and a person who relates well to other people."

"Ted is, I think, a terrific choice to head up the Chicago Bears," he said during a news conference.

It is the first time in the 79-year history of the team that a person outside the Halas-McCaskey family has assumed the title of president. The post allows for virtual autonomy in running the organization.

The team was embarrassed last month when Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Dave McGinnis turned down the Bears' coaching job after his hiring was announced prematurely.

Phillips said he was excited and looked forward to helping get the Bears back to the Super Bowl.

"The future I think is very bright ... I intend to lead this organization with integrity and class," he said.

Phillips, 41, a former auditor and tax accountant, joined the Bears in 1983 as the club's controller. He was the team's chief negotiator of players' contracts.

Michael McCaskey, the oldest of 11 McCaskey children, became president of the team in 1983 after the death of his grandfather.

PANTHERS MOVES: The Carolina Panthers cleared about $3.1 million in salary cap room Wednesday by cutting two original franchise members, linebacker Lamar Lathon and nose tackle Mike Fox.

The releases of Lathon and Fox were two of several moves new coach George Seifert announced two days the NFL's free-agency signing period opens. Seifert said the Panthers also extended former Georgia kicker John Kasay's contract through the 2003 season and agreed to terms on a new three-year contract with offensive guard Anthony Redmon.

Carolina also signed three players to training-camp contracts: linebackers Steven Conley and Sam Manuel and defensive tackle Harry Deligianis.

In addition, Seifert said the Panthers would not put a franchise designation on offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer, a label that would have restricted him from signing with other teams when free agency opens Friday.

Lathon, a nine-year NFL veteran who was entering the final season of a five-year, $13.5 million contract, spent 1998 on injured reserve as he battled worsening knee problems. He underwent four knee operations last year alone.

Fox, another nine-year veteran who was entering the final season of a five-year, $9 million contract, lost his starting job early last season and wound up with 32 tackles and one sack.

TV MOVES: CBS completed its purge of its rookie studio analysts Wednesday, hiring veterans Craig James and Jerry Glanville to boost its struggling "NFL Today" studio show and ABC's "Monday Night Football" has apparently let veteran broadcaster Frank Gifford go.

The network had come under heavy criticism last year for pairing Jim Nantz with television rookies Marcus Allen, Brent Jones and George Seifert.

The foursome didn't mesh from the outset, and Seifert was replaced during the season with insider Mike Lombardi, who likely will return to his off-air research role next season.

Seifert left the network last month to coach the Carolina Panthers. Allen will be a reporter and Jones will be a game analyst.

Last year, the "NFL Today" was the lowest rated network pregame show in history. Its 2.7 rating on Sunday's one-hour show trailed Fox by 37 percent, prompting Wednesday's moves.

Glanville has spent the last five seasons as an analyst for Fox and also co-hosts "Inside the NFL" on HBO. Fox claims it has a three-year contract with Glanville, but he says he never signed it.

Gifford is being forced out at ABC after his contract expires in June, according to a published report.

Gifford spent 27 years in the "Monday Night Football" broadcast booth before Boomer Esiason replaced him before last season. Gifford switched to co-host the pregame show with Chris Berman.

According to the Daily Variety, the network and Gifford are talking about other roles within ABC Sports. Network officials are considering a major overhaul of the pregame show, including bringing in ESPN's Ton Jackson.

The news came less than a week after Gifford's former partner, Dan Dierdorf, left ABC after the network refused to make him a substantial contract offer.

Dierdorf's departure was thought to be a cost-cutting move. Reportedly, Gifford's salary is higher than Dierdorf's $1.7 million a year deal.

NOTES: The Pittsburgh Steelers made certain they didn't lose Mark Bruener to free agency, signing one of the NFL's best blocking tight ends to a $10 million, four-year contract. Bruener likely will be the only player among a large group of Steelers unrestricted free agents to re-sign before the free agent signing period begins Friday. ... New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka wants to be sure the fluttering of his heart was not an indication of anything more serious than an irregular heartbeat. Ditka planned to have further tests to follow up on the emergency treatment he received last week. "I want to get an angiogram, and then make sure I don't have any blockage," Ditka said. "If I have blockage, then I have to get done what has to be done whether they have to bypass it or whatever." Ditka, 59, had a heart attack in 1988. A mild electric shock was administered to his heart on Feb. 2.