Charity effort grows for retired players

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A nonprofit group that helps retired NFL players deal with health and financial problems said Tuesday that hundreds of current pro players have pledged about $400,000 to help their aging predecessors cope with unexpected setbacks.

The charitable effort drew praise Tuesday during a news conference attended by more than 20 former Kansas City Chiefs, including Fred Arbanas, Len Dawson and Richard Baldinger. During the meeting, current Chiefs offensive lineman Kyle Turley said several of his teammates have agreed to donate about $50,000 from their Dec. 23 game checks to the nonprofit Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund.

Current Chiefs players Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, Ty Law, John Welborn, Eddie Kennison and John Carney have joined a growing number of NFL players who have stated their desire to contribute part of their game checks on Dec. 23, which has been dubbed Gridiron Guardian Sunday.


Turley initiated the fund-raising drive in late November by pledging his $43,000 Dec. 23 game check to Gridiron Greats.

Gridiron Greats Executive Director Jennifer Smith said Tuesday that about $400,000 has been promised by current players who have returned pledge cards that Turley has been distributing in NFL locker rooms nationwide during recent weeks.

Most of the donations came from players who asked to remain anonymous, said Smith, who added that a complete tally won’t be available until next week at the earliest.

-- Greg Johnson

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) again offered to help the NFL and big cable companies negotiate an end to a nasty dispute that threatens to keep millions of sports fans from seeing the final regular-season game as the New England Patriots try to complete a perfect season.

The Patriots (14-0) are trying to become the first NFL franchise since Miami in 1972 to go undefeated in the regular season. Their final game, Dec. 29 against the New York Giants, however, won’t be carried on most major cable television systems because of a dispute with the NFL Network, which has exclusive national rights to the game.

Time Warner Cable said in a prepared statement that it is “willing and hopeful that the NFL will consider moving this game to broadcast. We appreciate the senator’s interest in helping fans gain access to this game.”

But an NFL Network spokesman said that the league is “not interested in a piecemeal approach that involves broader distribution of NFL Network for only one game.”

-- Greg Johnson

Pro Bowl voters honored the memory of Sean Taylor, who died Nov. 27 after being shot during a burglary at his home in Florida.

Taylor was voted the starting free safety on the NFC team. He was having an outstanding season and was one of the leading vote-getters among fans at the time of his death.

“It is well-deserved,” Redskins center Casey Rabach said. “If he would have been able to finish the season, he would have been in there.

“It just shows the respect everybody around the league had for him and what a great player he was.”

Dallas safety Roy Williams, who was told Monday that he has to sit out the Cowboys’ game Saturday night against the Carolina Panthers as punishment for his third “horse-collar” tackle this season, filed an appeal and a hearing was scheduled for today.

Quarterback Tony Romo was limited because of an injury to the thumb on his passing hand during practice. He didn’t take snaps and might take them only out of the shotgun today, even though he’ll probably have a new center.

Starter Andre Gurode hurt his left knee and probably won’t play against the Panthers.

Four starters, including Steve Smith and Julius Peppers, missed practice for the Panthers. Coach John Fox provided no further injury information on Peppers, except repeating that the defensive end sprained his knee in Sunday’s win over Seattle. Smith sat out with an illness after catching eight passes for 72 yards against the Seahawks. . . . The Denver Broncos released beleaguered punter Todd Sauerbrun, bringing in his training camp rival Paul Ernster to replace him. Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence. . . . Bill Parcells could become the Atlanta Falcons’ vice president of football operations, a role that would put him in charge of finding the team’s next coach. Parcells is considering an offer to join the team’s front office, a person familiar with the negotiations said on condition of anonymity.