Dolphins close in on coach


Published: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins hope to complete their two-week search for a coach by Saturday, and the front-runner appears to be San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

The former Indiana coach kept his hotel room near the Dolphins' complex Thursday night after a second day of interviewing with team officials. A Dolphins spokesman said management was still weighing the candidates.

"I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that no decision will be made today," Dolphins senior vice president Harvey Greene said Thursday evening. "We hope to finish the process by tomorrow or Saturday at the latest."

Cameron first interviewed with the Dolphins shortly after coach Nick Saban left for Alabama on Jan. 3. Cameron became available when San Diego was eliminated from the playoffs Sunday by New England.

Other candidates still in the mix to replace Saban include Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey, Dolphins defensive coordinator Dom Capers, former Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora and former Alabama coach Mike Shula, the son of ex-Dolphins coach Don Shula.

EX-PLAYER SUICIDE

Brain damage caused on the football field ultimately led to the suicide of former defensive back Andre Waters, according to a forensic pathologist who studied Waters' brain tissue.

Bennet Omalu of the University of Pittsburgh told The New York Times that Waters' brain tissue resembled that of an 85-year-old man and that there were characteristics of early stage Alzheimer's. Omalu told the newspaper he believed the damage was related to multiple concussions Waters sustained during his 12-year NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.

Waters was 44 when he committed suicide last November.

Omalu said trauma was a significant factor in Waters' brain damage, "no matter how you look at it, distort it, bend it."

The pathologist also told the newspaper the signs of depression that family members described Waters as exhibiting in his final years likely was caused by the brain trauma. Had he lived, Omalu said, the former player would have been fully incapacitated within 10 years.

The Alzheimer's Association Web site reports "there appears to be a strong link between serious head injury and future risk of Alzheimer's." The statement did not distinguish between a single catastrophic trauma and lesser repetitive injuries.

"Whatever its cause, Andre Waters' suicide is a tragic incident and our hearts go out to his family," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday.

FALCONS

For the third time in nine months, Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Vick reluctantly surrendered a water bottle to security at Miami International Airport that smelled like marijuana and contained a substance in a hidden compartment. He was not arrested and was allowed to board an AirTran flight that landed in Atlanta before noon Wednesday.

Miami police said Thursday it could be weeks before a decision is made on whether to file charges against the three-time Pro Bowl player, who this season became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, general manager Rich McKay and new coach Bobby Petrino met with Vick, who left team headquarters without speaking to reporters. McKay described Blank as being "upset" with the quarterback, whose $137 million contract was richest in the NFL when Vick signed it three years ago.

"We are an organization that prides itself on not having off-the-field issues," McKay said. "I think we have done a pretty good job of bringing the right people in here so we don't have to face these types of issues. We don't like it. We don't accept it. It is not what we want."

Under Florida law, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. First offenders rarely do any jail time.

"We'll do an analysis and see what it is. There's no sense of urgency to it," Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said Thursday.

The NFL's substance abuse policy states any team can decide that a player's "behavior, including but not limited to an arrest," can warrant a physical exam from its appointed medical director. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said no decision had been made in Vick's case.

"We have a process that provides guidelines for every situation," Aiello said. "Our doctors conduct a lengthy evaluation, if necessary, and then decide if enrollment in a treatment program is necessary."

Last April, Vick settled a lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed the player knowingly gave her herpes. In November, Vick made an obscene gesture toward Atlanta fans who heckled the team as it came off the field after a 31-13 loss to New Orleans. Vick apologized profusely, paid a $10,000 team fine and donated another $10,000 to charity.

Now, another embarrassing situation for Vick. Are the Falcons concerned that a disturbing pattern is emerging with the face of their franchise?

"No, I don't think there is, because I think I know the person," McKay said. "But when it comes to somebody this high profile, you have to do everything possible to avoid this situation. I think he understands it."

On Wednesday, two Transportation Security Administration screeners recognized the 6-foot, 215-pound Vick when he was reluctant to turn over his 20-ounce bottle.

The bottle was found to have a compartment that contained "a small amount of dark particulate and a pungent aroma closely associated with marijuana," a Miami police report said. The compartment was hidden by the bottle's label so that it appeared to be a full bottle of water when held upright, police said.

Petrino, who met Vick for the first time Thursday under less-than-ideal conditions, refused to answer questions from reporters, but he could open training camp by giving backup Matt Schaub a chance to win the job.

McKay hopes Vick will avoid further trouble and play well enough to keep his starting position.

"We are not trying to have ... continuous off-the-field instances on our football team," McKay said. "It is not fair to the fans. It is not what we want to talk about. We want to talk about the football. Hopefully, this is the last time this offseason you have to come out and see us."

JAGUARS

Jacksonville locked up another key defensive starter, signing linebacker Daryl Smith to a five-year contract extension worth about $25 million.

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