After six weeks of letting receivers run unfettered through the secondary, the slumping Washington Redskins addressed the problem Monday by signing five-time Pro Bowl defensive back Troy Vincent.

Vincent, whose 47 interceptions rank second among active players, was released from Buffalo’s injured reserve list last week. The 15-year veteran hurt his hamstring in preseason and aggravated it in the season opener against New England, but said last week he had fully recovered and was ready to take offers from other teams.

The 35-year-old Vincent joins a team that has spent heavily on safeties and cornerbacks, only to watch them allow more passing plays of 20-plus yards (25) than any team except Green Bay. The Redskins (2-4) ranked 23rd in the league in pass defense through Sunday’s games, and they lost on Sunday to a rookie quarterback (Vince Young) starting for a winless team (Tennessee).

Vincent had a strong 2005 season with a career-high 102 tackles and a team-high four interceptions for the Bills.


Wide receiver Koren Robinson was excused from part of practice on Monday as he prepared to face drunken driving charges in Minnesota on Tuesday. Robinson, who has been fairly open about his off-field problems since signing with the Packers last month, declined to say how he would plead, but said he didn’t expect his legal situation to affect his ability to play in Miami on Sunday.

“It’s not a big thing,” Robinson said. “It’s just a preliminary hearing. I have to go up there and enter a plea and then go from there. But I’m going up there this evening, be back tomorrow after everything is done and then be back here ready for practice on Wednesday.”

Robinson was arrested Aug. 15 after his blue BMW sedan was caught on radar going more than 100 mph in a 55 mph zone as he tried to get from Minneapolis-St. Paul to the Vikings’ training camp headquarters in Mankato, Minn., in time to make curfew. The Vikings cut Robinson after the incident.


Steve Smith has reached top speed, and so has his team.

The Panthers started 0-2 while Smith nursed a hamstring injury. He returned in Game 3 and Carolina hasn’t lost since, although it was apparent Smith wasn’t in top form. His breakaway speed wasn’t there, and he had three drops in a win over Cleveland.

The old Smith returned Sunday as the Panthers won their fourth straight, 23-21 in Baltimore. Smith had eight catches for 189 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown that best displayed Smith is back. He had to retreat to grab Jake Delhomme’s underthrown ball over the middle, then took off. He beat speedy Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle to the right corner of the end zone for the decisive touchdown.

“You’ve got to remember Steve went through two hamstring pulls, missed most of camp as well as the preseason games, and two regular-season games,” coach John Fox said Monday. “No matter how good you are, in this game you have to get into condition to play it. I’m not just talking about weightlifting and cardiovascular work, I’m talking about playing the game. At this level it’s a certain speed. Until you’re out there doing it, you don’t get into that condition. Steve was a guy who was on the shelf for a while. He’s gotten better each week.”


Romeo Crennel has decided to keep Maurice Carthon around.

“I’m not changing the offensive coordinator,” Crennel said Monday. “I’ve talked to players and coaches and we think our team has ability and we’ll be able to get some things done. I think we can get some things straightened out. I don’t think we’re that far away.”

Carthon’s questionable play-calling has come under attack following a lackluster start to the season for the Browns (1-4), who have scored just 81 points and whose offense is second-worst in the NFL.

Crennel utilized Cleveland’s bye week to evaluate the club’s numerous offensive woes. Among his findings were that Carthon isn’t solely to blame, quarterback Charlie Frye is still learning on the fly and there’s reason for hope.

And, Crennel’s support for Carthon and his coaching staff is stronger than ever.

“I told them that I have confidence in every one of them,” he said. “By working together, we can get this thing straightened out. That is what I believe. I may be crazy, stupid or naive, but that’s what I believe.

“I think I have good coaches. I have good kids on the team, I believe in them and I’m going to give them a chance to do their job.”

Crennel, too, said he’ll take a more active role to help fix Cleveland’s sputtering offense, which has been plagued by fumbles and interceptions – the Browns are minus-9 in turnover margin.


The Lions will be looking at free-agent fullbacks this week after losing both of theirs during Sunday’s win over Buffalo. Shawn Bryson (knee) is expected to need surgery and may miss the rest of the season, while Cory Schlesinger’s status is unknown with a strained hamstring.

Rookie linebacker Ernie Sims left the game with an elbow injury, and was undergoing tests late Monday, but said he hoped to play Sunday against the Jets with the help of a brace. “When I got hit, it felt like fire, but I want to play,” he said Monday.


The Eagles insisted they’d be ready for New Orleans after an emotional win over Dallas. Instead, they came out flat against the Saints before rallying to take the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter, only to lose on a field goal at the end.

A letdown game? Sure seemed like it.

“We need to start fast and finish stronger,” coach Andy Reid said Monday. “We need to do a better job in the first quarter and fourth quarter. We need to stay aggressive with our calls. We have to do better. We’ll get it fixed.”

They missed an opportunity to separate themselves from the rest of the NFC East and now trail three teams in the conference, including the surprising Saints (5-1). Donovan McNabb and the rest of the offense watched helplessly from the sideline as the Saints held the ball the final 8:26 during their winning drive.

“We have to get off the field. No excuses,” linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. “That’s all there is to it.”


Coach Jeff Fisher knows his Titans (1-5) still have a ways to go in their rebuilding process.

“The challenge is, “OK, let’s see if we can do it back to back,” Fisher said Monday.

This franchise hasn’t won consecutive games since the conclusion of the 2003 season, when it won three straight and finished 12-4. Thanks to the schedule, the next opponent is Houston (1-4) on Oct. 28, which certainly is an opportunity to end another drought.

But first things first for a team enjoying its first victory since Dec. 11, 2005 against Houston. The Titans had to listen to talk that they might be the worst team in the NFL. Now they know how victory can boost the psyche.

Linebacker Peter Sirmon called it huge because no longer are the Titans winless in the standings and forced to walk into stadiums hearing all about their skid.

“We finally got that one done, put that away,” Sirmon said.


Outcoached and outplayed are no longer part of the Giants’ vocabulary.

With wins over Washington and Atlanta, Tom Coughlin’s team is suddenly feeling very good about itself heading into a Monday night game in Dallas.

The offense is again playing ball-control football with Tiki Barber running at will, Eli Manning hitting clutch passes and Jeremy Shockey even getting into the act with two touchdown catches in a 27-14 win over Atlanta on Sunday.

The much-maligned defense also seems to have found itself. After being shredded for 92 points in the first three games, New York has given up 17 points in the two games after the bye, a period that started with Shockey saying that the Giants (3-2) were outcoached and outplayed in a miserable loss to Seattle.

“I think guys are having fun again,” middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “That’s what we got back to. Guys out there are shooting hoops (after sacks). Shockey is talking smack. Eli is even pumped up. Tiki is doing what he is doing. We have put all the other stuff on the side.”

AP-ES-10-16-06 1840EDT

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