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October 29, 2006|Sam Farmer

They take steps,

so does the league

The NFL informed three Pittsburgh Steelers this week that each has been fined $5,000 for their group touchdown celebration last Sunday in a loss to Atlanta. Receivers Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington were penalized for a spontaneous dance after Washington made a 10-yard touchdown catch. The league has disallowed any type of group celebrations on the field.

It started innocently enough, with Washington making the catch and doing a dance that probably would not have been penalized. Then Ward and Holmes came over and joined him.

One of those two might want to pick up Washington's fine, considering they make a lot more than the $385,000 he's paid.

"It doesn't sit well with me," Washington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, saying he might appeal the fine. "But I got to deal with it."

New South Beach Diet

Miami linebacker Zach Thomas is listed at 5 feet 11, 228 pounds, but observers say he's looking a lot lighter than that these days. He says he has lost five pounds, in part because of the stress of losing.

"We're 1-6; it takes its toll on you," he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Sometimes I get too lean. I'm pushing my calories up a little bit because I have gotten lighter."

He says that he feels quicker and that the weight loss hasn't made him any less productive.

"I feel good in games, and I'm healthy, and that's all I really care about," he said. "My energy has been great."

Grass-roots effort

Ah, New England in the fall. The temperature dips, the days get shorter, and the colors change.

In fact, they've changed in a big way for the New England Patriots, who finally put in new sod to replace the ugly brown strip of dirt running right down the middle of the Gillette Stadium field. Not only was it unsightly, but visiting kickers frequently complained about kicking off the dirt.

For now, the Patriots have replaced the area between the hash marks and the end zones. But they might switch to an artificial surface such as FieldTurf after the season.

The Patriots will test the new field next Sunday when they play host to Indianapolis.

Elvis lives

Folks in Denver are abuzz about 5-11 rookie defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who has five sacks in the last two games. Not bad for a guy who was deactivated his first three games.

Dumervil, a fourth-round pick from Louisville, earned the Bronco Nagurski Award last year as college football's best defensive player after collecting a remarkable 20 sacks.

He's also the player who wound up on the wrong end of Marcus Vick's cleat in that infamous stomping episode when Louisville played Virginia Tech.

Party's over

The Houston Texans showed some fight last Sunday when they shocked Jacksonville with a 27-7 victory at Reliant Stadium. Now, the Texans say, they have to build off that and show some pride about protecting their turf.

"Teams act like it's homecoming when they come in here," defensive end N.D. Kalu told reporters, "and we've got to change that kind of thinking."

Standing by their man

Buffalo is sticking with J.P. Losman at quarterback, even after three consecutive losses. The Bills want to determine if he can be their long-term starter, and they don't have a lot of enticing alternatives. They don't want to start 33-year-old Kelly Holcomb because he appears to be nearing the end of his career, and Losman completely outplayed Craig Nall, now No. 3 on the depth chart, during training camp.

Captain Comeback

Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer led a fourth-quarter comeback last Sunday for the fifth time in 35 games. After he was sacked for a 10-yard loss, he completed eight of nine passes for 93 yards on the winning drive against Carolina. His other fourth-quarter comebacks have come against Cleveland, Baltimore, Tennessee and Pittsburgh.


-- Sam Farmer

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