Unable, and perhaps unwilling, to perform

Tiki Barber isn’t the only star New York running back on the verge of retiring. Apparently, so is the Jets’ Curtis Martin. He strongly hinted to reporters last week that he might be done, even as he works to rehabilitate his surgically repaired knee.

“The hardest part about this deal is that I can’t just will myself to do things right now,” said Martin, 33, who is supposed to start practicing again in two or three weeks. “I have to be smart and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

He said it’s not certain that he’ll return to practice during the three-week window for players on the physically-unable-to-perform list.


“ ‘Definitely’ is not a word I’m going to use,” Martin said. “ ‘Hopefully’ is the word that I will use. You can’t have anything etched in stone in this situation.”

On the defensive

Denver has yet to score 20 points in a game this season. Good thing for the Broncos their defense is so smothering that it has surrendered one touchdown in five games.

Coach Mike Shanahan delivered this message to his team last week: Keep up the defensive pressure while the offense tries to work out its kinks. If the defense can help put points on the board, all the better.

“Any way you look at it, go back and really look at which teams won championships,” Shanahan said, “Scoring defense is one of the biggest factors, if not the biggest factor.”

They glow in the dark

The Tennessee Titans finally found a uniform that works for them: dark blue jerseys and dark blue pants. They wore the combination for the first time against Washington last Sunday and picked up their first victory.

The Titans were 0-2 in white jerseys and 0-3 in white pants.

The players decided to go blue on blue.

“It looked great out there, huh?” said running back Travis Henry, who ran for a career-high 178 yards. “Maybe we need to wear blue on blue at home.”

The way Tennessee has played, it sure couldn’t hurt.

Pac-10 reunion

The Raiders will play host to Arizona today, and the quarterbacks matchup will pit Oakland’s Andrew Walter and Arizona’s Matt Leinart.

When he played at Arizona State, Walter set a Pacific 10 Conference record with 85 touchdown passes.

Leinart broke that at USC with 99.

Watch that backside

Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer has gotten hit a lot more this season than he did in 2005, and that number is expected to rise with left tackle Levi Jones out after knee surgery.

The Bengals will start rookie Andrew Whitworth at left tackle, and today he’ll be facing two of the best defensive linemen in the game, Carolina’s Julius Peppers and Keith Rucker.

‘Backer is back

Linebacker Chad Brown had the only sack for the Steelers last Sunday, which isn’t bad for a player Pittsburgh signed only three days earlier. Then again, Brown is an old hand when it comes to knowing the Steelers’ defense. He spent his first four seasons with them before signing with Seattle in 1996 as a free agent.

“A lot of it came back to him,” Pittsburgh Coach Bill Cowher said. “It was good to get him some reps, and I think he’ll be a lot better with a full week of work.”

Leash your president reported that New England has formally asked the NFL to “ensure the safety of [its] employees” when the Patriots play host to Indianapolis on Nov. 5.

Why? Because combustible Colts President Bill Polian will be there.

This month, Polian reportedly shoved a Jets employee before an Oct. 1 Jets-Colts game because Polian thought the loudspeakers were placed too close to the field. The league required Polian to issue a written apology to the Jets employee.


-- Sam Farmer