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Cowboys try, try again

The Ryan Leaf saga resumes today when the quarterback, briefly a Buc before signing with the Cowboys, makes his first regular-season start since being run out of San Diego.

The Cowboys, who are 2-5 and have little to lose, want to see what the once highly regarded Leaf can do now that he's mostly healed.

He looked decent in relief of Clint Stoerner last week in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Giants, going 4 of 8 for 85 yards. Leaf is 4-14 as a starter with 13 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions.

The Cowboys are hoping his strong arm will help their big-play capabilities. "He gives you the ability to throw the ball deep. He's got a gun to throw it into some tight situations," coach Dave Campo said. "But, again, one of the reasons he's here is because he's doubled his interceptions to touchdowns, so we want him to be smart and do what we're asking."

Leaf, who reportedly has been one of the hardest workers in practice in Dallas, will be the Cowboys' fourth starting quarterback this season, a club record.

TRIVIA QUESTION: San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia is off to a great start in the NFL. But which Niners quarterback threw for the most yards and touchdowns in his first 32 starts?

WHOSE TURN THIS WEEK?: For the third week in a row, at least one Broncos offensive lineman was fined. This time it was right guard Dan Neil, whose fine of $52,941 is equivalent to one game's pay and one of the largest fines in league history. Neil was fined for two leg whips during Denver's 38-28 loss to the Raiders on Monday. Two weeks ago, he was fined $15,000 for clipping on a play that broke Patriots linebacker Bryan Cox's leg.

Left guard Lennie Friedman was fined $12,500 for two leg whips against Oakland, and right tackle Matt Lepsis was penalized $15,000 for an illegal cut block that left San Diego's Maa Tanuvasa with a broken ankle. The Broncos have been fined a total of $127,529 this season.

WHERE'S THE D?: It's no mystery why the Titans are 3-4. After being tops in the league in total defense and passing defense last season, Tennessee is 27th (354.1 yards per game) and 30th (257.6 yards), respectively, this season.

Before you get any ideas, Baltimore coach Brian Billick said injured quarterback Elvis Grbac likely will start Monday night, even though backup Randall Cunningham won both his starts. "Elvis Grbac is our starting quarterback, plain and simple," Billick said.

WHERE AM I?: Team doctors made the decision to keep Chargers quarterback Doug Flutie on the sideline after he suffered a concussion Sunday against Kansas City. Flutie's fate was sealed when doctors asked him who the Chargers played the week before and he couldn't remember. It was his old team, Buffalo, and he scored the winning touchdown.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon hasn't thrown an interception in his past 215 attempts or since his fourth pass of the season.

SILENT PARTNERS: Although Niners receiver Terrell Owens and coach Steve Mariucci aren't getting along, don't look for the club to move Owens any time soon.

General manager Terry Donahue estimated it would cost the team $7-million against the salary cap to trade or release Owens. "They are both doing their jobs," he said. "As long as they do that, as far as I'm concerned, it's a moot point."

FIRST THE TWINS, NOW THE VIKINGS?: Word is, investors in Los Angeles and Portland have been calling Vikings owner Red McCombs about selling the team. McCombs hasn't indicated he's willing to deal, but he hasn't dismissed the notion, either. McCombs supposedly wants a new stadium, and whether the area supports the idea likely will affect the team's future in the Twin Cities.

THANKS, BUT NO THANKS: Now that the Redskins have won three straight after an 0-5 start, linebacker LaVar Arrington has a message for "fans": Stay home.

"I don't want nobody jumping on (the bandwagon) because there's no room," he said. "We'll ride with the people who have been with us. We don't want fair-weather fans. We don't want you. You're either with us or you're not."

WORRYING ABOUT WOODSON: The only thing that seemingly can break the Raiders' winning groove is an injury to a key player. Like, say, star cornerback Charles Woodson, who has severe turf toe.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Garcia (8,157 yards, 52 touchdowns). Joe Montana had 7,198 yards and 45 touchdowns; Steve Young had 6,827 yards and 48 touchdowns.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

Up next:KEEPING COOL

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