Originally created 12/03/99

Rams coach denies running up scores



Dick Vermeil doesn't like being called a bully. The St. Louis coach has bristled this week at suggestions his NFC West-leading Rams have run up the score in recent weeks.

"People that know me know I'm not trying to enhance my ego or status or our offense's status by scoring at the end of the game," Vermeil said.

The evidence: Marshall Faulk ran 18 yards on a sweep with 1:11 to go three weeks ago in a 35-10 victory over Carolina, and last week James Hodgins scored from the 1 with about three minutes left in a 43-12 victory over New Orleans.

The defense: In the first case, Vermeil said he believed his running game hadn't gotten enough work and blamed the Panthers for poor tackling. On Sunday, he said he backed off and used only running plays. Hodgins is a backup fullback who had three carries for 5 yards all season.

"It was just like the same offense I ran at Hillsdale High School," Vermeil said of his first head-coaching job. "I didn't expect to score."

BEARS: Switching quarterbacks is hardly a new experience for Chicago. Now, after Jim Miller's four-game suspension for violating the NFL drug policy, they're doing it again out of necessity.

When they play the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field Sunday, the Bears will turn back to opening-game starter Shane Matthews, who has been recovering from a hamstring injury and hasn't played in five weeks.

It will be Chicago's fifth switch of starting quarterbacks this season.

The starter's breakdown goes like this: Matthews six games, rookie Cade McNown three and Miller the past three before his random drug test showed traces of Nandrolone, a substance banned under the NFL's steroid policy.

Matthews, who had been cut four times before winning the starter's job, led the Bears to a 3-2 record in the opening five games before injuring his right hamstring during the fourth quarter of the fifth game against Minnesota.

SAINTS: Celebrating the biggest play of his career cost William Whitehead $5,000.

The New Orleans linebacker was fined by the NFL for disregarding their rule against making a throat-slash gesture while celebrating a sack of Rams quarterback Kurt Warner.

Whitehead got a letter from the NFL telling him about the fine. It came as no surprise: Whitehead said he expected some kind of disciplinary action.

Whitehead was making the first start of his fledgling NFL career. He sacked Warner in the first quarter of Sunday's game. Then, as the cameras panned in, Whitehead jumped up and made the outlawed motion.

JETS: Tackles Jumbo Elliott and Jason Fabini could face time in jail after being indicted for their roles in a July 10 bar fight.

Elliott, 34, was charged with one count of third degree assault and two counts of disorderly conduct.

If convicted, Elliott faces up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Fabini, 25, was charged with one count of disorderly conduct and faces a maximum of 15 days in jail and a maximum fine of $250.

Both players will be arraigned next week before Nassau County (N.Y.) Court Judge Joseph Calabrese.

PACKERS: Defensive lineman Billy Lyon was fined $7,500 by the NFL for a late hit on San Francisco quarterback Steve Stenstrom. The hit came during the Packers' 20-3 win over the 49ers Monday night. Lyon tackled Stenstrom after the quarterback threw a 32-yard completion to Jerry Rice in the second quarter.

REDSKINS: After getting letters from some upset fans, kicker Brett Conway apologized for saying, "Half the fans are drunk" at Redskins games. Conway also said, "They don't know what they're talking about" when asked to explain the booing from the home fans following Sunday's overtime victory over the Eagles.

VIKINGS: Yo Murphy still will be returning kicks Monday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., only he'll be doing it in purple and not pewter.

The Vikings claimed Murphy off waivers after the Buccaneers tried to slip their top return specialist onto their practice squad to sign emergency quarterback Scott Milanovich.