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James ends holdout, signs deal with Colts

Running back Edgerrin James, the surprise first-round pick of the Colts, ended a 21-day holdout Thursday when he signed a seven-year contract worth $49-million.

His agent, Leigh Steinberg, announced the signing and the financial terms of the contract. James, who took a physical before signing, joined the Colts for their afternoon practice at Rose-Hulman Institute.

The former Miami star was taken fourth overall in April's draft, one pick ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. He missed 25 practices, a scrimmage and the opening preseason game.

"We're happy to get it done. A lot of people talked about our reasoning. It's because he's the best football player," owner Jim Irsay said of the selection of James, who will team with last year's No. 1 pick, Peyton Manning, in the backfield.

"We think he's going to fit with Peyton and those guys are going to be a lot like Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman," Irsay said.

Coach Jim Mora said James would not play in Saturday's preseason game with Cincinnati and would spend a lot of time studying with backfield coach Gene Huey.

The contract included a $9.5-million signing bonus and an additional $350,000 bonus for making the roster, Steinberg said.

It also includes $1.15-million in reporting bonuses over the life of the contract and four tiers of bonuses based on performance, Steinberg said.

"I'm in pretty condition. It's just a matter of getting into football shape with the pads on," said James, who has been spending much of the past month working on his conditioning in Miami.

James' signing leaves three first-rounders who have not agreed to terms. Heading the list is Cincinnati quarterback Akili Smith, the third overall selection.

MARTIN CASE: Taped jailhouse phone conversations between a convicted drug dealer and Dolphins receiver Tony Martin show Martin agreed to write checks to pay the dealer's lawyer, Internal Revenue Service agent Paul Robarge testified.

Robarge said he listened for weeks to taped calls Rickey Brownlee made from the Federal Detention Center in Miami.

Robarge testified that Brownlee needed a legitimate person to pay his attorney's fees. So, it was agreed that Martin would write the check and receive cash from Brownlee, he said.

Jurors heard excerpts from 1998 phone calls between Brownlee and Sam Wilson. Martin was on some of the tapes as part of a third-party conference call, which Robarge said is not allowed on prison phone calls.

In one of the calls between Brownlee and Wilson, they talk about the need to find someone to write a check for legal fees. Brownlee would provide the actual cash behind the check.

Brownlee: "Just find him, he'll do it."

Wilson: "Who, Tony?"

Brownlee: "Yeah, Yeah."

Martin, 33, is charged with five counts of money laundering. He allegedly leased three cars in his name on behalf of Brownlee, who paid him back with cash. Martin also is accused of writing two checks to Brownlee's lawyer in exchange for a cash reimbursement.

Prosecutors say Martin wrote a $25,000 check in February 1998 for Brownlee's lawyer and a $175,000 check a month later. He placed a stop payment on the second check after federal investigators subpoenaed his financial records, according to prosecutors.

Another tape indicated Martin paid back $100,000 to Brownlee after he stopped payment on the check.

Brownlee, 42, spent seven years in prison for 1980s drug convictions. He faces five counts of possessing heroin or cocaine with the intent to distribute and one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute.

In another tape, Martin told Brownlee that the man _ Brownlee's attorney _ needed a retainer.

Martin: "The man told me he need it by Monday, whatever. I got no money in my account."

Martin told Brownlee he was waiting on a check that was supposed to be coming from the Chargers in March 1998.

"I ain't got no money in my account," Martin told Brownlee on the tape again.

"Man, you got to have that money somewhere," Brownlee said.

In another tape, Martin said he has no problem with it _ which Robarge said meant Martin would write a check for legal fees and receive the money from Brownlee as a swap.

Cross-examination of Robarge is this morning.

GIANTS: Coach Jim Fassel left the team in Albany, N.Y., one day before the preseason opener, to be with his critically ill mother in Arizona. It is not known when he will return.

PACKERS: All-Pro WR Antonio Freeman signed a one-year tender offer. The deal means Freeman can report to training camp while the team and Freeman's agent, Joel Segal, continue to work on a long-term contract.

"Antonio wants to be here," coach Ray Rhodes said. "I'm just happy they worked something out. We're going to take our time getting him ready to play and go from there."

RAMS: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago upheld a decision dismissing a $100-million lawsuit claiming rights to the St. Louis Rams trademark.

The decision reinforces that the NFL's trademarks and slogans associated with a team are property of the team, even if the club moves and hasn't used them yet.

The court ruled last week in the case of Johnny Blastoff Inc. vs. Los Angeles Rams Football Company, that such a "public use of a mark is deemed to be on behalf of the mark's owners," and not on a third party.

The Rams moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995.

In finding for the Rams, the court relied on the fact that the media and public had used the mark "St. Louis Rams" to refer to the team before the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

REDSKINS: Four-time Pro Bowl LB Ken Harvey retired after 11 seasons, unable to come back from an injury to his right knee.

SEAHAWKS: Pro Bowl DE Michael Sinclair signed a five-year contract extension. Terms weren't given.

Chargers wide receiver Charlie Jones gets wheeled off the field on a stretcher during the second quarter of a 31-24 loss to the 49ers.

CLAYTON ARRESTED: Former Dolphins WR Mark Clayton was released from jail a day after being arrested for driving with a suspended license and failure to pay child support. Clayton, who played with the Dolphins from 1983-92, was arrested Wednesday. Records showed he owed $12,441.25 in unpaid child support. He was released after paying $6,639.75 in back child support payments and posting a $500 bond.

CHARGERS: WR Charlie Jones dislocated his left hip when he was tackled near the sideline and fell hard on his side during the team's 31-24 loss to host San Francisco in their preseason opener.

EAGLES: Starting TE Jamie Asher dislocated his left ankle in the team's 10-7 preseason loss to visiting Baltimore. Asher, who signed a $4.1-million, three-year contract, is out at least three months.

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