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ON THE NFL

Singletary makes a quick impression

October 28, 2008|SAM FARMER | Farmer is a Times staff writer.

Can an NFL coach actually become more popular by losing his first game than by winning it?

San Francisco's Mike Singletary is testing that theory.

After watching his 49ers stumble through a 34-13 loss to Seattle -- a game in which he benched quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan and sent petulant tight end Vernon Davis to the showers early -- a seething Singletary first apologized to fans, then explained he's not going to stand for selfish, shoulder-shrugging losers in his locker room.

The coach was a bit more circumspect Monday when he met with reporters and clarified his comments about Davis.

"Vernon is not a problem guy," he said. "He's not a guy who's a distraction to this team."

So what happened? Singletary said he and Davis had a conversation earlier in the week about the third-year tight end being a team leader. When Davis was flagged for a personal foul against the Seahawks and Singletary pulled him from the game, the coach tried to remind him of their previous talk.

An indignant Davis kept saying, "What!" and the coach finally pointed him to the locker room.

So the rules have changed.

But will the results?

Mike Ditka thinks they will. Eventually.

"He's a good coach right now," said Ditka, who coached the Chicago Bears when Singletary was their star middle linebacker. "I don't know if that will translate immediately into wins. It didn't translate into a lot of wins right away for Coach [Tom] Landry, it didn't translate my first year into a lot of wins. With a lot of guys you struggle in the beginning. But I think when he gets his people in place, he'll win."

In a telephone interview, Ditka said he hadn't seen that kind of fire in the typically measured Singletary since the days he wore No. 50 for the Bears. For the coach, that brought back memories of his first year with the Bears, who went 3-6 in the strike-shortened 1982 season.

"When I went to the Bears, they knew who the boss was," he said. "Here's the statement I made: 'I've got good news and bad news: The good news is we're going to win a Super Bowl here, and the bad news is a lot of you people won't be here when we do it.' "

Drug cases confirmed

New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister confirmed Sunday that he's among a group of NFL players being investigated by the league for use of a weight-loss diuretic that's on the list of banned substances. A player who tests positive for the first time can be suspended for four games.

"We've been kind of going through this process for a while," McAllister told reporters after the Saints beat San Diego in London. "I guess you guys just found out about it at this point. But whatever happens, that's what's going to happen. We've hired counsel. He's going to do his job to kind of put the case together, and however the NFL rules, that's the way it will be."

McAllister and teammates Will Smith and Charles Grant -- all of whom have tested positive for the substance -- are being represented by attorney David Cornwell, according to a source familiar with the situation. Unauthorized to speak regarding the appeal, the source spoke only on the condition of anonymity.

The same source said the NFL has the scientific ability to determine the presence of a prohibited substance even if the player has used a diuretic.

Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, Pro Bowl defensive tackles for the Minnesota Vikings, also tested positive for the so-called water pills, according to a Fox report. Those are on the banned list because they can be a masking agent for steroids.

Cornwell, a former league attorney, commonly represents players in trouble, including, over the years, Reggie Bush and Ricky Williams. He has confirmed that he represents Houston Texans long snapper Bryan Pittman.

In an e-mail, Cornwell said Pittman "did everything humanly possible to comply with the NFL steroid policy, including obtaining doctors' written authorization to take weight loss medication. He did not use steroids."

Cornwell added: "Thus far, the only violation of the NFL steroid policy is the breach of Bryan's absolute right to confidentiality while his appeal proceeds. Whoever is leaking this story is attempting to put their thumb on the scale [of] justice to harm Bryan."

By the numbers

Reader Pat Battistini poses a good question about the Cincinnati Bengals, who are halfway through the season and have yet to win a game, and their star wide receiver who seems to crave the spotlight:

Chad Johnson wants to change his surname to Ocho Cinco, but shouldn't it really be Chad O and Ocho?

AFC worst

Even though San Diego has lost three of its last four games, the NFL Network's Steve Mariucci isn't ready to count the Chargers out.

"They are underachieving, but they can still win that division," he said on GameDay Final.

I can put it more succinctly:

The AFC West stinks.

--

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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