Tice tight-lipped on Moss' Sunday role

Minnesota Vikings: Randy Moss practiced Wednesday despite a strained right hamstring, but Vikings coach Mike Tice wouldn't say what kind of role his star receiver would play Sunday.

Moss was limited in practice and left early to get treatment for his hamstring, which he injured Oct. 17 at New Orleans. Tice sounded optimistic about Moss' recovery and expected him to be limited again Thursday. He was listed questionable on Wednesday's injury report.

"He did really everything we wanted him to do and probably a little bit more," Tice said.

Moss made a token start last Sunday against Tennessee to keep his consecutive games streak alive at 102. But he was limited to two plays of decoy duty. He's expected to have a bigger role against this weekend against the Giants.

"I think he's going to be ready," quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. "I think he will be just by talking with him and being around him. ... He wants to be on the field. It hurt him really bad not to be out there."

Tice's contract status will wait: Owner Red McCombs has an option on Tice's contract for 2005, and McCombs reiterated that it will be addressed after this season.

That has been his stance since the summer. However, in a story in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, McCombs said he'll pick up Tice's 2005 option regardless of what happens this season -- and then look into a longer-term extension.

That was apparently news to Tice. "I do not discuss my contract with Red," he said. "I have a job to do and goals to reach."

McCombs, speaking from his San Antonio office, offered his support of Tice, who's in the final year of his original three-year contract. "I am very pleased with him as a coach, and I see no reason why he wouldn't be coaching the Vikings as long as he wants to," he said.

San Diego Chargers: LaDainian Tomlinson missed practice Wednesday
and will probably sit out Thursday because of a strained groin, but the running back expects to play against the Raiders.

Tomlinson has been playing through the injury the last three
weeks, and does not want to miss the big home game Sunday. He's expected back Friday.

"I consider the Raiders our biggest rival because everybody
around town loves that game," Tomlinson said. "That's the game
you look forward to playing."

Two of Tomlinson's five biggest games as a pro came against the
Raiders in 2003. He had a career-high 243 yards in a home win in
the season finale, and 187 yards in an overtime loss at Oakland on Sept. 28.

Of course, how he does Sunday will depend on how his groin
feels. Tomlinson hasn't cracked 65 yards in any of the last three
games. He was hurt in the second half of a home win against
Tennessee on Oct. 3. He gained 147 yards in that game.

The Chargers have two more games before their bye, when Tomlinson can rest.

The Chargers must sell more than 3,000 tickets by 1:15 p.m.
Thursday to lift the local TV blackout. San Diego's first three
home games were blacked out. If the blackout isn't lifted, it would be the first time since
1977 that the Raiders game in San Diego hasn't been shown locally.

Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Steve McNair missed practice because of a death in the family, and pain from his bruised chest will determine whether he works out at all this week.

McNair, listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Bengals, hurt his sternum for the third time in five weeks in last weekend's loss at Minnesota. The injury knocked him out of the game, and afterward he was taking shallow breaths to ease the pain.

When McNair received treatment Tuesday, coach Jeff Fisher said his quarterback was a little better but still sore.

Fisher said McNair was expected back in town Wednesday night. The Titans did not disclose details about the death in his family.

The Titans appear to be healing a bit. Tight end Shad Meier ran for the first time since having his appendix removed Oct. 17, and middle linebacker Rocky Calmus (lower back) took part in some drills against the offense. Right guard Benji Olson (strained groin) also practiced. But running back Chris Brown watched the workout wearing a walking boot
to protect his sprained left big toe. Also, defensive end Carlos Hall is doubtful to play against the Bengals because of swelling and a bone bruise in his right knee.
Fisher said surgery is not an option now, so rookie Travis LaBoy will see more playing time along with veteran Juqua Thomas, who is coming off a sprained ankle.

Chicago Bears: Craig Krenzel promises that when he makes his first NFL start Sunday night, he won't be overcome by emotions or jitters.

"I don't really get nervous. I feel that nervousness is kind of a byproduct of being unprepared," Krenzel said, looking forward to the Bears' home game against the 49ers.

Three years ago, Krenzel made his first start for Ohio State in
an imposing and electric venue -- at Michigan where most of the
100,000-plus fans were rooting against him. He directed Ohio State to its first win in Ann Arbor since 1987,
went on to lead the Buckeyes to an unbeaten national championship season as a junior a year later and finished 24-3 as a starter.

Now he's a fifth-round draft choice who never expected to be
playing this soon, but will be leading the Bears on national TV in a matchup of 1-5 teams. Aseason-ending knee injury to Rex Grossman and three
ineffective outings by backup Jonathan Quinn prompted the Bears to give Krenzel the shot.

"We're glad that's settled. We'll put a lot on Craig's
shoulders so we'll take it upon ourselves to step up and help him
out. That's what needs to be done," tight end Dustin Lyman said.

San Francisco 49ers: Quarterback Tim Rattay didn't participate in throwing drills to rest his sore forearm.

Rattay is expected to play Sunday at Chicago, but might not throw the ball in practice this week unless his ailing arm feels better. He missed three weeks earlier in the season with a similar forearm strain. He has been plagued by several injuries during his first season as the 49ers' starter, but still has thrown for 1,177 yards and seven touchdowns this season while completing more than 64 percent of his passes.

"'ll be able to warm it up [in Chicago]," Rattay said. "Hopefully I can get it under control and not have it lingering all season."

Meanwhile, cornerback Ahmed Plummer doesn't expect to play against the Bears while resting a bulging disc in his neck, leaving the 49ers without both of their starting cornerbacks.

Plummer has been bothered by neck problems since last season and says he "very concerned" about this one. Jimmy Williams and rookie Shawntae Spencer are expected to start at cornerback against the Bears, with seldom-used Joselio Hanson as the nickel back.

Carolina Panthers: All hopes for Steve Smith playing again this year were lost when the receiver was placed on injured reserve, the same day coach John Fox said running back Stephen Davis would miss his fifth game when the Panthers play Seattle.

Davis, who ran for a career-best 1,444 yards last season, has
been bothered by a knee injury all season and has played just two
games for Carolina (1-5). DeShaun Foster, his backup,
was placed on the injured list Monday with a broken collarbone, and
third-stringer Rod Smart is out with a knee injury.

The Panthers have fullback Brad Hoover starting at running back,
and they signed Brandon Bennett this week in an attempt to add depth. Bennett has appeared in 74 games, all with the Bengals.

Meanwhile, the Panthers had hoped to get Smith back by the end of the season. He broke his leg in the opener and was due to begin rehabilitation within the next couple of weeks.

But with the playoffs looking like a long shot, there's no longer a rush to get him back on the field.

Arizona Cardinals: Wide receiver Anquan Boldin went through a full workout in pads and has no doubt he'll be able to play at Buffalo this weekend.

"For the past couple of weeks, my goal has been to get back on the field without any setbacks -- any swelling or any pain," he said. "I think I've reached that goal right now."

Boldin, last season's NFL rookie of the year, will be upgraded from questionable to probable on Thursday, coach Dennis Green said. Green said that if Boldin is active for Sunday's game, "he'll play a significant amount."

Boldin has been sidelined since his right knee locked up during
warmups at training camp Aug. 10. He underwent arthroscopic surgery
to repair torn cartilage. Boldin missed an entire season at Florida State with an injured left knee.

Miami Dolphins: Defensive tackle Tim Bowens, who played in just two games this year because of a back injury, went on injured reserve Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season.

Bowens sat out the first five games with a herniated disc in his back. He started the past two games but left Sunday's victory over St. Louis with a recurrence of the injury, and the Dolphins decided to place him on injured reserve.

"Unfortunately the injury would knock Tim out for about six to eight weeks," said his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. "The team felt they couldn't keep him inactive for that period of time."

Before this season, Bowens had missed only five games in 10 seasons. Surgery is unlikely, Rosenhaus said.

The loss of Bowens leaves Miami with only one holdover from last year on the starting defensive line, end Jason Taylor. Tackle Larry Chester suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game.
Bryan Robinson, who has started four games this season, is expected to take Bowens' spot in the lineup. To take Bowens' spot on the roster, Miami signed defensive tackle Mario Monds off the New York Giants' practice squad.

Seau's injury not serious: Coach Dave Wannstedt said the groin injury that sidelined linebacker Junior Seau on Sunday wasn't serious and that Seau is expected to be able to play Monday against the Jets, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report.

Sticking with kicker: Wannstedt also told the newspaper that Matt Bryant likely would remain with the team at least through Week 8 as Olindo Mare's status (strained calf) is uncertain. Bryant has made all three of his field-goal attempts.

Seattle Seahawks: Receiver Bobby Engram's left ankle sprain is worse than initially believed, coach Mike Holmgren said.

Engram is listed on the team's injury report as out for Sunday's game against Carolina, though Holmgren said it's more accurate to describe him as doubtful. He was hurt during a loss at New England on Oct. 17.

The team's medical staff initially believed Engram sustained a low ankle sprain that would heal quickly. He then missed last week's game at Arizona, and Holmgren said it was apparent the injury is higher in the leg.

"Once they did the MRI, [they saw] there's a little more damage there," Holmgren said. "He's a tough guy, so he kind of fooled us a little bit. When we finally took pictures of it, it's a little worse than we thought."

Engram is Seattle's best possession receiver and returns punts.
He has 12 catches for 200 yards this season and has averaged 8.1
yards on seven punt returns. He will be replaced by Jerry Rice, the NFL's career leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns receiving.

Elsewhere, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, listed as probable with a strained right heel, didn't practice Wednesday; linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski also is doubtful, with a high sprain in his right ankle, and linebacker Anthony Simmons (shoulder surgery) and defensive end Grant Wistrom (cracked kneecap) are out.

Washington Redskins: Linebacker LaVar Arrington and kicker John Hall were not able to practice, and both are listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against Green Bay.

Arrington has missed four straight games since having knee surgery Sept. 23. He re-injured the knee during a running drill Monday, but trainer Bubba Tyer said the main issue slowing Arrington's return is the loss of strength in the thigh muscle during rehabilitation.

Hall, recovering from a strained groin in his kicking leg, was
able to kick about 10 balls a short distance under trainers'
supervision. Ola Kimrin, signed as an emergency fill-in for the
Chicago game before the bye, is expected to stick around and kick
in his second NFL game Sunday.

There was better news for two other injured players. Phillip Daniels, who has missed four games with a groin injury, practiced on a limited basis and is listed as questionable. Linebacker Mike Barrow, sidelined since the beginning of training camp with tendinitis in his knee, had his first practice in pads and is also listed as questionable.

Buffalo Bills: Left tackle Jonas Jennings is ready to return this weekend after missing two games with a sprained left ankle. Jennings, listed as probable on the Bills injury report, said he's eager to resume playing.

Jennings was hurt in Buffalo's 16-14 loss to the Jets on Oct. 10. And he also missed part of Buffalo's 31-17 loss to New England the previous week after sustaining a concussion. His return would bolster an offensive line that has been disarray for most of the season, a factor in Buffalo allowing a league-worst average four sacks a game.

Starting center Trey Teague is listed as doubtful for the 1-5 Bills and expected to miss his fourth straight game with a cracked bone in his left knee. Backup tackle Marcus Price, who had been filling in for Jennings, is listed as questionable after hurting his knee in last weekend's 20-6 loss at Baltimore.

Backup cornerback Terrence McGee is listed as questionable after hurting his foot against Baltimore; starting cornerback Troy Vincent did not practice, but his status was upgraded to doubtful; and rookie quarterback J.P. Losman (broken left leg) is listed as doubtful. He's about a week away from being cleared to fully practice.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.