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Neck injury sidelines Bills' Spielman

Buffalo Bills linebacker Chris Spielman will miss the rest of the season with a herniated disc in his neck, an injury that could threaten his 10-year career.

Spielman was placed on the injured reserve list Tuesday, two days after he played a full game in Buffalo's 23-20 overtime loss to the Denver Broncos. He would not speak with reporters.

"Our doctors advised he shouldn't play any more this season," coach Marv Levy said. "We deeply regret a player and an individual like Chris won't be able to finish the season."

Spielman had felt numbness throughout his body for more than a week before telling team doctors Sunday. Levy was not sure exactly when the four-time Pro Bowl selection sustained the injury.

Levy said Spielman might have surgery. He did not know whether the injury would end the linebacker's career. Spielman apparently was moved to tears while telling Levy of the injury.

"He was heartbroken," Levy said. "But he understands. It's not a shoulder or ankle. It could turn into something serious if he isn't treated correctly. I know Chris told me, "I'll be there next year,' but I just don't know."

The Bills signed free agent Mark Maddox, who played six years for Buffalo before being cut during training camp. First-year linebacker John Holecek, held out last week with an ankle injury, is expected to start Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

Falcons' owner remembered

ATLANTA _ The league's top official hailed Rankin Smith, the man who brought professional football to the Deep South, as a visionary despite years of disappointing performances by the Falcons.

"It's one of the sad parts. It's one of the ironies. He was such a high, high quality person," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said after a memorial service for Smith, who died Sunday of heart failure at 72.

Team owners from across the country and Falcons players old and new joined in an overflow crowd of more than 1,200 at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Dan Rooney, president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and longtime friend and former Falcons player Tommy Nobis delivered eulogies.

BEARS: DT Chris Zorich, Chicago's second-round draft pick in 1991 and a player known for charity work in his hometown, was waived. Zorich, 28, missed last season after tearing a knee ligament. He had thumb surgery in August and had played in only three games this season, making two tackles.

"He wasn't in the rotation. He wasn't playing. He wasn't active," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It's really tough; he's a special guy. He really is. It's really not fair to him. He's frustrated. Everybody knows how badly Chris Zorich wants to play."

CARDINALS: The starting quarterback job is Jake Plummer's to lose, coach Vince Tobin said. Plummer will start Sunday against the Eagles even though Kent Graham returns to practice today for the first time since injuring his right leg Oct. 12. "Once Kent comes back and is completely healthy, Jake will still be the starter," Tobin said.

RAMS: St. Louis activated rookie OL Ryan Tucker from the physically unable to perform list and plans to play him Sunday at Atlanta. RB Ron Moore was released to make room. Backup S Gerald McBurrows, who injured his right knee in Sunday's loss to Kansas City, was placed on the injured reserve list.

STEELERS: Coach Bill Cowher said he has no idea who made an alleged phone call to Greg Lloyd that the linebacker supposedly blamed on Jacksonville WR Keenan McCardell. "The insinuation that someone on the staff would make a phone call is absurd," Cowher said. "You don't have to do that to get Greg Lloyd up for a game."

VIKINGS: Three owners who have been critical of coach Dennis Green for writing his controversial autobiography said they want him to make a public statement immediately to explain why he wrote the book. Green is scheduled to meet with reporters this afternoon, and the three owners _ board of directors chairman John Skoglund, vice chairman Philip Maas and Wheelock Whitney _ said Green could help diffuse the situation by giving his explanation, although they are not demanding an apology.

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