NFL

COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: Czar's final notes

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After hearing grief the last two weeks from agents and his players, NFLPA president Gene Upshaw plans to renegotiate the banned substance policy with the league over ephedra-based products.

Upshaw originally agreed to the automatic four-game suspension, believing the policy needed to be strong. But with players like Kansas City¿s and now Carolina sackmaster testing positive for over-the-counter products, Upshaw would like to have the suspensions reduced to two games for next season. For example, players found guilty of domestic violence are generally only suspended for one game.

The NFL might consider such a switch, too, within reason.

Peppers has postponed his appeals until Dec. 3. His agent, Marvin Demoff, still believes he will lose that appeal despite the argument that the NFL can¿t prove Peppers was ever notified in early October, like the league claims, that he had a positive test on Sept. 25. Had Peppers been notified then, he would have been allowed to have a second test examined by one of his representatives. That never happened, according to Demoff.

There have been reports that there might be five to ten players appealing positive tests, but that apparently isn¿t true. Thus far, only five NFL players have tested positive for ephedra-based substances. Peppers was found positive for taking a prescription diet pill.

The scoop on Sunday's FOX games

GAME: St. Louis at Washington
TIME: 1 p.m. ET WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
returns to start for the , and Coach Mike Martz plans to protect him, considering won¿t play. , the hero of the ¿ 5-0 streak, has a sore finger that will need a painkiller to play. He¿ll be the third quarterback. Can coach Steve Spurrier balance his offense? In last two losses, he¿s called 90 passes to 37 run plays. Battle of the Brains: Martz vs. Washington defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, the highest-paid assistant in the NFL. was sacked five times and threw two INTs in his last start vs. Tennessee on Oct. 5.

CZAR¿S SCOOP: , 32, is talking about retiring at season¿s end now that he¿s been benched for the third time by Spurrier. RB and OT have been steaming that Spurrier isn¿t running more; both players may not be back next season. Warner had an awful practice on Thursday and there are some concerns he¿s lost arm strength. would like to single-up on .

GAME: Atlanta at Carolina
TIME: 1 p.m. ET WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The were blitzed earlier this season, 30-0, by Mike Vick & Co. Vick has rushed for 6 TDs and 455 yards this season while throwing only 2 INTs in 228 attempts. The will win if FB gets a carry. Atlanta is 6-0-1 when he does this season; 0-3 when he doesn¿t. Carolina is running out of offensive weapons with WR suspended for the game for assaulting teammate . Smith was released from jail on Friday. starts for Smith and , who¿s never played tackle, starts for the waived OT .

CZAR¿S SCOOP: The would have suspended Smith for more than one game for beating up Bright, but knew the NFLPA would appeal and probably win. Carolina also waived Terry, who missed a court date on Tuesday and probably is in the NFL drug program. Terry, who started 57 games, will count $637,354 against next year¿s salary cap. Carolina didn¿t plan to re-sign him. The Seattle were the only team to place a waivers¿ claim on Terry, who will be an unrestricted free-agent.

GAME: Detroit vs. Chicago at Champaign, Ill.
TIME: 1 p.m. ET WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
The are attempting to stop a team-record eight game losing streak. The ¿78 also lost 8 straight. The beat them in the first game on an overtime field goal. Chicago¿s offensive line will have at LT and at LG. The will only dress 18 defensive players and probably will be minus DE , LB and FS . QB ¿s right elbow is so bad that he doesn¿t throw one pass during practices all week.

CZAR¿S SCOOP: Even though he keeps losing, the McCaskey family seems behind coach Dick Jauron. You wonder what Jauron would do if owner offers a five-year contract? There¿s no doubt that Jauron lacks confidence in GM Jerry Angelo to rebuild his roster. Randy Mueller, who was fired as GM of the last May, has been rumored as a replacement to Matt Millen. There has been speculation that Millen may resign after the season.

GAME: Minnesota at New England
TIME: 1 p.m. ET WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Well, the have arrived exactly where they were last season, 5-5 and looking to go on a Super Bowl run? New England¿s offense has been struggling lately. QB missed three wide-open receivers against the and all three might have been TDs. The hope to win with their running game. is seeking his 5th consecutive 100-yard rushing game.

CZAR¿S SCOOP: QB is heading into the final season of his contract with the club showing no intention of extending his deal. Culpepper is going about it all wrong, though. He has only 22 TD passes compared to 43 turnovers in his last five starts. was fined $5,000 for taunting last Sunday. Owner Red McCombs has ruled out hiring a GM for next season.

GAME: Green Bay at Tampa Bay
TIME: 4:15 p.m. ET WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
This could ¿s final visit to Raymond James Stadium and he¿s 0-4 there. The want to run inside, which means right at Bucs¿ tackles and , who¿s 6-foot, 270 pounds. Darby is subbing for injured Booger McFarland. The key player is guard , who¿s had a Pro Bowl season but has always been pysched out by Sapp. , the ultimate tough guy, will start on two bad knees. He has a MCL tear.

CZAR¿S SCOOP: WR agreed to a new long-term contract last night. Driver, who has had a breakout season, could have been an unrestricted free agent after the season. Bucs GM Rich McKay feels like coach Jon Gruden will push him aside come draft time, but he¿s no longer the top candidate to be Atlanta¿s new GM. The first choice there is Baltimore¿s Ozzie Newsome. Remember, McKay wanted to hire Marvin Lewis to be the Bucs head coach, not Gruden.

GAME: New York at Houston TIME: 4:15 p.m. ET WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The are already minus , and now they will play without DT . starts at LDT. On offense, starts at center and at right guard. With the receiving corps decimated, look for old-timer to lineup when they reach the red zone. The have a shot because they are allowing only 315 yards a game. Also, 29 percent of the points they¿ve allowed have come off either turnovers by the offense or special teams.

CZAR¿S SCOOP: coach Jim Fassel seems to be saving his job with 3-0 run while calling the offensive plays. owner Bob McNair had a great opening night beating the Dallas . But he had a good week. His two-year-old colt Gigawatt won the Display Stakes at Woodbine on Wednesday. Gigawatt will now ship to Florida to prepare for the three-year-old campaign, hoping to run in the Kentucky Derby.

Tagged: Falcons, Bears, Bengals, Lions, Packers, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Jaguars, Texans, Mike Gandy, Mike Brown, Shane Matthews, Jim Miller, Barrett Green, Donald Driver, Brett Favre, Ahman Green, Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Torry Holt, Marc Bulger, Michael Bennett, Chris Hovan, Daunte Culpepper, Tom Brady, Cornelius Griffin, Stephen Davis, Jon Jansen, Champ Bailey, Karl Hankton, Steve Smith Sr., Julius Peppers, Chuck Darby

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