Cornerback tears ACL; Buckley signed

New York Jets: Cornerback Ray Mickens was placed on
injured reserve Wednesday with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in
his left knee, while Terrell Buckley was signed to take his place.

Mickens will have reconstructive surgery after a third MRI
revealed the damage. He was hurt more than three weeks ago during a
training camp practice, but earlier exams were inconclusive because
of swelling.

The ninth-year veteran, who has missed only two games in eight
seasons, was the team's top nickel back. Last season, he started 14
games when starter Donnie Abraham went down with a shoulder injury
and finished with 75 tackles and two interceptions.

"It's just a shame," coach Herman Edwards said. "We had a
good talk early in my office. He's down, he was anticipating
getting back and helping us. I told him, 'Ray, the road to recovery
is a long one, but if anyone can get it done, you can.' "

Buckley, who was released by division rival New England on
Sunday, ranks third in the NFL among active career interception
leaders with 47. He joins his fifth team, having also played with
the Packers, Dolphins and Broncos.

Edwards is not sure whether the 33-year-old Buckley, who is
going into his 13th NFL season, will play Sunday in the season
opener against Cincinnati. Rookie cornerback Derrick Strait is
expected to replace Mickens as the nickel back this weekend.
-- Associated Press

Atlanta Falcons: Pro Bowl linebacker Keith Brooking hopes to play in the Falcons' season opener, even though a sore hamstring kept him from practicing Wednesday.

Brooking ran on the sideline while his teammates went through a
2-hour practice for Sunday's game at San Francisco.

"It feels good," he said. "It's improved a tremendous amount
the last couple of days."

Brooking played in the preseason finale last week, missing
consecutive tackles in the first quarter of a blowout loss to
Washington. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to skip
that game.

"It was tight the whole time," Brooking said. "I probably
should have come out. It did get worse at the end."
-- AP

Arizona Cardinals: A team that seems to make at least one personnel move per day continued its streak of roster tweaking, signing defensive tackle John Nix to a contract of undetermined length.

A seventh-round pick of the Cowboys in 2001, Nix has appeared in 30 regular-season games and totaled 43 tackles and three forced fumbles. He has also spent time with the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns and played in the NFL Europe League this spring with the Amsterdam Admirals.

The 6-foot-1, 313-pound Nix is a decent player against the run and will add veteran depth to a Cardinals defensive front still in flux.

Arizona also signed tight end Bobby Blizzard and offensive tackle Jim Newton to its practice squad. Blizzard was recently released by the Steelers, with whom the former Kentucky player had signed as an undrafted free agent this spring. Newton was a free agent with Indianapolis last year and played in three games on special teams in 2003. He was released earlier this week.

In addition, the Cardinals announced that a pair of players claimed on waivers earlier this week, cornerback Derek Ross and defensive tackle Eddie Freeman, had both failed their physical exams and will not be joining the team.
-- Len Pasquarelli, ESPN.com senior NFL writer

Green Bay Packers: Michael Hawthorne has held off Ahmad Carroll, the Packers' top draft pick, for the starting job at left cornerback relinquished by holdout Mike McKenzie.

Coach Mike Sherman said Wednesday that Hawthorne will play in
the base defense and Carroll in the dime in the season opener
Monday night at Carolina.

"And Carroll is going to play, he's going to play in the base,
as well. He's just not going to start the game," Sherman said.
-- AP

New England Patriots: On the eve of their regular-season opener, the Patriots released six-year veteran offensive lineman Bob Hallen. He had been signed on May 11 to add another experienced backup to the Patriots line.

Hallen, 29, has appeared in 75 games and started in 44 of them. Originally a second-round pick of Atlanta in 1998, he spent four seasons with the Falcons and then signed with San Diego as an unrestricted free agent in 2002.

It was believed that Hallen could be an effective "swing" lineman for the Pats, since he can play guard and tackle, but he now becomes the fourth different veteran in four years who failed to fill that role.
-- L.P.

Philadelphia Eagles: Offensive lineman Steve Sciullo signed with the team after being waived by Indianapolis.

A fourth-round pick by the Colts last year, Sciullo started the
first 12 games at right guard before going down with a neck injury.
He was part of an offensive line that allowed just 19 sacks and
helped running back Edgerrin James run for 100 yards six times.

To make room on the roster, the Eagles placed rookie offensive
lineman Adrien Clarke on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
-- AP

New Orleans Saints: Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks
showed no sign in practice this week of the injury that kept him
out of most of the preseason action.

Brooks worked with the first-team offense during practice on
Tuesday and Wednesday with no ill effects from a strained right

"I'm great," said Brooks, who has started 55 consecutive
regular-season and postseason games. "I'm 100 percent. I'm ready
to go."

Initially Brooks said the injury, which he suffered in practice
Aug. 4, limited his mobility, but not his passing. He said the
strain won't limit him in any way against the Seattle Seahawks on

"Not at all," Brooks said. "I'm going to go 'till I can't go
-- AP

Adding to the practice squad: The Saints signed quarterback Kliff Kingsbury and defensive tackle Shaun Smith to the practice squad.

Smith, 6 feet 2, 320 pounds, was recently released by the Dallas
Cowboys. He signed with Dallas as a rookie free agent May 1, 2003,
and spent last season on the Cowboys' practice squad.

Kingsbury, a 2003 sixth-round draft pick of New England, was
released by the Patriots on Friday.

"(Kingsbury)'s a guy we tried to draft a couple of years ago,"
Haslett said. "We thought he was raw, but had a lot of yardage and
was very productive. We thought he's a guy we could work with and
mold into a pretty good quarterback."
-- AP

Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback Brian Williams was limited in
Wednesday's practice with his sprained left knee, but coach Mike
Tice still expected him to play some on Sunday against Dallas.

Williams was listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Earlier
this week, Tice said Williams was ahead of schedule in his
recovery. He sprained the knee in the Vikings' first preseason game
against Arizona.

Wide receiver Marcus Robinson (hamstring) is listed as
questionable, but is also expected to play against the Cowboys.

Michael Bennett, who's out with a right knee sprain, was the
only other Vikings player listed on the report.
-- AP

Arena team folds up shop
Indiana Firebirds owner Dave Lageschulte
said Wednesday the Arena Football League franchise has been shut
down after four years in the city.

Lageschulte purchased the Firebirds in 2002 from Glenn Mazula,
who had owned the team since its inception in 1990 in Albany, N.Y.
Mazula moved the team to Indianapolis in 2001.

Lageschulte, who lives in Florida, had been seeking local
ownership of the team.

Lageschulte estimated the team's losses in his two years of
ownership at "several million" dollars.

"It's a great sport, and I love it, but it just didn't work
out," he said.
-- AP