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Week 7 in the NFL

Justice finally may get a piece of the action

October 22, 2006|Sam Farmer

Winston Justice, the former USC standout and Philadelphia rookie left tackle who so far hasn't been activated for an NFL game, could play today if starter William "Tra" Thomas is still hobbled by back spasms.

If he does, Justice will be nose to nose with Tampa Bay's Simeon Rice, among the NFL's best sack specialists.

In 10 games against Thomas, Rice has 15 sacks.

Thomas sat out practice Wednesday because of back pain, fueling speculation that the Eagles might have to go with Justice, a player for whom they traded up to select in the second round.

Justice told reporters this week he's "blessed to have this opportunity."

He says he feels as if he's learning to play the game at the highest level.

"I think I've progressed a lot from college technique to NFL technique," he said. "I can't say I'm on Tra and Jon [Runyan's] level yet, but I feel like I've improved a lot as a football player."

Rice-a-phony?

Carolina receiver

Keyshawn Johnson told reporters this week that Rice, his former Tampa Bay teammate, isn't nearly as good a defensive end as the Panthers' Julius Peppers. Johnson said Peppers is the most complete defensive end he has seen in his 11-year career.

"One guy goes after nothing but sacks," he said of Rice. "The other guy plays complete. One guy says outrageous statements about he's the best at this, this, this. And the other guy ... it's not even close.

"All Simeon Rice does is rush the passer. That's it. If he doesn't get to the quarterback, you can forget it. He ain't making any other plays."

Peppers leads the NFL with eight sacks; Rice has 120 for his career but only one this season.

Better lucky than good

Chicago has the week off, giving the Bears time to count the ways they almost blew it at Arizona last Monday.

For example, with nine minutes left in that game they passed up a 45-yard field-goal attempt that might have cut the Cardinals' lead to 23-13. And Chicago's kicker is no slouch: Robbie Gould is 18 for 18 this season.

Still, the Bears wound up pulling off a 24-23 victory, one secured when Arizona's Neil Rackers missed a 40-yard kick at the end.

"Sometimes, when you're a team of destiny, things like that happen," Chicago Coach Lovie Smith told reporters afterward.

He later clarified his team-of-destiny comment: "What I meant to say was that that night we were a team of destiny."

A friend in Favre

Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre said last week that the NFL has "turned [its] back on" Packers receiver Koren Robinson, who has battled substance abuse and was recently suspended for the season after a drunk-driving charge.

During the ban, Robinson is also barred from returning to team headquarters.

"I'm not against banning him for the year," Favre said. "I'd love for him to play, but to boot him out, clean his locker out and say you can't have contact with this team?"

Favre, who entered the NFL's substance abuse program during treatment for an addiction to painkillers in 1996, said it doesn't make sense that the policy bans his teammate from the Packers' facilities "and the support group that can help him."

Radio active

Tiki Barber did a radio interview with Barry Sanders last summer, and some of the retired star's advice resonated with the New York Giants running back, who last week revealed he was strongly considering retirement after this season.

"He said at some point you just lose your passion for it," said Barber, 31 and in the prime of his career. "You get beat up enough times, you realize it's a young man's game and you want to do something else."

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-- Sam Farmer

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