Saturday, December 06, 2008
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NFL notes: Texans get ready for cold trip north

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[December 06, 2008] (AP) -- The Houston Texans' first trip to Green Bay, where Sunday temperatures are expected to be in the teens, could be a shock for this warm weather team from a city where a coat is rarely needed.

DonutsCoach Gary Kubiak said there's no way to prepare for it, especially with temperatures in the 70s earlier this week in Houston. However, he believes Houston's trip to Cleveland a couple of weeks ago when it was about 30 degrees gave them an inkling of what they'll face Sunday.

"Cold is cold, we're going to have to go down there and function, protect the football and do a good job," Kubiak said.

Andre Johnson, who is from Miami and has played his entire career in Houston, isn't looking forward to playing in such harsh conditions. He said he'll decide on game day if to wear long sleeves, but that keeping his hands warm will be a priority.

"That's the most important thing, I think, just keeping your hands warm," he said, "Because if your hands get cold, the ball kind of feels like a brick when it hits your hands. Sometimes, it hurts your hands when it hits them, from your hands being cold. You just try to keep your hands as warm as you can so when the ball touches them, it doesn't feel as heavy."

Fellow receiver Kevin Walter, who grew up in Illinois and went to Eastern Michigan, is accustomed to the cold weather.


"I'm from the North, so I love the cold weather," Walter said. "I'd rather it be 18 degrees than 90 degrees, to tell you the truth. You can breathe easier out there. You can fly around and you don't get tired. So I'm looking forward to it."

Walter is definitely in the minority on this team filled with Southerners. Most of the players shared the feelings of offensive tackle Eric Winston, who is dreading the weather.

"There's nothing fun about playing in the cold weather," he said. "Fifties is nice, 40s is OK, down there after that, it's awful."


ROAD, SWEET ROAD:@ Home-field advantage apparently isn't as much of an advantage as it always used to be in the NFL.

Of the 12 games played last Sunday, 10 were won by the visiting team.

That helped drop home winning percentage in 2008 down to only .549, which would match the third-lowest number for an entire season over the past 20 years, according to STATS. The lowest? In 2006, home teams won just 53 percent of the time.

In each of the four seasons from 1995 through 1998, in contrast, home teams won at least 60 percent of their games - with a high of 63 percent in 1998.

"Some guys love playing away, like myself," Washington Redskins receiver Antwaan Randle El said.


"It's like going in somebody's house and taking their cake off the table and they're sitting right there looking at you and there's nothing they can do," Randle El said.

His team has lost its last three home games. The Redskins' only victory in November came all the way on the opposite coast, at the Seattle Seahawks.


"NFL coaches are emphasizing, 'You've got to try to win on the road,'" Redskins kick returner Rock Cartwright said. "So there could be more focus on away games."


ROOTING INTEREST: The winless Lions have at least one outsider rooting for them to win a game.

Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh hopes that Detroit (0-12) doesn't become the first team to finish a season 0-16. He wants them to win, even if it closes the gap with his 1-10-1 Bengals, who have the second-worst record in the league.

"I want the Lions to win one," Houshmandzadeh said. "Rudi (Johnson) is on the team - that's my boy. So I would like for them to win a game. You don't want a team to lose every game. That's tough, man. And we've only won one, so it's not like we're much better than them."

The Bengals have long been acquainted with misery, having only one winning record in the past 18 years. Their closest brush with a winless season came in 2002, when they finished 2-14. Cincinnati opened this season with eight losses before beating Jacksonville.

Fans and pundits may be intrigued by watching a team flirt with an 0-fer season, but Houshmandzadeh said other NFL players tend to be more empathetic.

"You don't want anybody to go through this," Houshmandzadeh said. "Like last year when Miami was losing, I actually wanted them to win a game. (You're) wondering: 'Man, how would that feel to go through what they're going through?'

"I'm going through that now, and it doesn't feel good. So you don't wish that on anyone."


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RANDLE'S REGRET:@ Nearly 10 years later, John Randle still hurts.

Not from the beating his body took from playing defensive line over 14 NFL seasons, 11 with Minnesota, but from the arguably most disappointing defeat in Vikings history.

The 30-27 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship game following that unforgettable 1998 season is for many fans the hardest to stomach of all the heartbreakers this franchise has been responsible for. Well, Randle feels their pain.

"Every day. It's a game that sticks in my head," he said recently, before being inducted into the team's Ring of Honor. "There's not a day that there's not something that reminds me about it."

Even random references to Georgia and the city of Atlanta itself bother him.

"You kind of knew we should've went to the Super Bowl," said Randle, one of the stalwarts on the team that went 15-1 during the regular season and set an NFL record for points scored that stood until the New England Patriots broke it last year.

Randle finds solace in his current life, focusing on his family and playing as much golf as he can. He still lives in the Twin Cities area.

"In life you have mistakes. You just move on, and you just have to learn to deal with it," Randle said.


HOLMGREN'S REGRETS: All season Mike Holmgren has said he had no regrets for already deciding this would be his 10th and final season coaching in Seattle. No regrets that his supposedly storybook finale has turned into a 2-10 nightmare for the four-time NFC West champions, the worst start in his 17 years as an NFL head coach.

Now, four weeks before he takes his self-described sabbatical from football in 2009, Holmgren says he wishes his replacement, Jim Mora, hadn't become known 11 months before he was to leave.

"The only thing I had wished for at the time - even though I wanted people in the building to know what the situation was, particularly the coaching staff - I didn't want it to be that public," Holmgren told reporters in New England on a conference call.

News leaked in early February that Mora, Seattle's defensive backs coach and assistant head coach, would replace Holmgren in 2009. The Seahawks were forced to announce the deal the next day.

"And when it went public, of course the cat's out of the bag," Holmgren said.

Yet Holmgren reiterated for the umpteenth time this season that having Mora identified as his replacement with a known start date, believed to be unprecedented in the NFL, has not been a distraction.

"Jim and I spoke a number of times about how we wanted it to go this year, prior to the year starting. And he's been great," Holmgren said. "He's coaching like crazy, coaching the secondary. And I can honestly say that even though people, because of our record, would like to think that's been part of it, and I can honestly say it hasn't had anything to do with it. The players have responded to me the same way they always have.

"It's just too bad that we're having the season we're having, because then it opens up some questions about how we're doing this. ... It's just too bad that we didn't play a little better this year."


AP Football Writer Barry Wilner and Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati, Howard Fendrich in Washington, D.C., Dave Campbell in Minneapolis, and Gregg Bell in Seattle contributed to this story.

[Associated Pressldnauthor

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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