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Once can't-miss, Vanderjagt released by Cowboys

Hailed as the answer to the Cowboys' kicking woes when signed in March, Mike Vanderjagt was cut Monday and former Buc Martin Gramatica was signed to replace him.

Vanderjagt wasn't living up to his statistical claim to fame as the most accurate kicker in league history. He was 13-for-18 on field goals, a 72.2 percent success rate that was the lowest of his nine-year career.

Vanderjagt also didn't like having to kick off, one of many aspects of his quirky personality that didn't always go over well with coach Bill Parcells.

Dallas gave Vanderjagt a $2.5-million signing bonus as part of a three-year, $5.4-million deal, so this is a costly move.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Vanderjagt was shocked at the news. So confident was Vanderjagt that he insisted a $200,000 incentive be added to his contract, payable if he made 85 percent of his kicks this season. He won't collect.

Dallas plays the Giants on Sunday at the Meadowlands. Parcells often talks of the swirling winds there, and he apparently wasn't ready to play a big game there with a kicker he didn't trust.

But can he trust Gramatica?

Once so accurate that he was nicknamed "Automatica," Gramatica was out of the NFL last season and was cut by New England in the preseason. He played three games this season for Indianapolis while Adam Vinatieri was injured, making his only attempt, a 20-yarder.

Gramatica made the Pro Bowl in 2001 and helped Tampa Bay win the Super Bowl in 2002. Since then, he is only 28-of-46.

Gramatica, who will earn about $172,000, declined an interview Monday night.

Cowboys players and coaches did not talk to the media Monday.

Vanderjagt made his only field-goal attempt against the Bucs, but the 22-yarder seems to have been too close for comfort for Parcells. The previous week against Indianapolis, Vanderjagt missed two first-half field goals.

Asked last week about getting Vanderjagt out of his rut, Parcells said: "I don't have a Dr. Livingstone's frozen elixir. I don't. I don't know what I can do. This guy is 36 years old and has been kicking for a long time. He has his way of doing things.''

Jay Cutler era begins

DENVER - Broncos coach Mike Shanahan ended speculation by officially elevating rookie Jay Cutler to starting quarterback for the rest of the year, sending Jake Plummer to the bench.

"He's our future, he's our present," Shanahan said.

Cutler, the 11th pick out of Vanderbilt, hasn't taken a snap since preseason.

"I'm excited," Cutler said. "And a little nervous. ... I don't know; it might make things worse. We'll have to find out."

Plummer declined to talk with reporters, but Cutler said Plummer offered him support.

Shanahan is hoping a quarterback change can ignite an offense that ranks 26th in the league in yards passing per game (171.5).

"There's a lot of pressure on a first-year quarterback, no question about it," Shanahan said. "I think this kid can handle it.''

Shanahan didn't criticize Plummer, who has 12 interceptions and 11 touchdowns. Shanahan said the entire offense was not playing well. He said Plummer was upset about being demoted but handled the situation with class. He left open the possibility of Plummer being the long-term backup.

BEARS: Fox analyst Troy Aikman said his assessment that quarterback Rex Grossman might be "the only thing holding back" Chicago shouldn't be construed as a non-endorsement. "My comments weren't intended to say Rex can't do it, because I think he can," Aikman said. "He has the ability to be a good quarterback in this league. But you can't have four turnovers and win games." Coach Lovie Smith reiterated that Grossman remained the starter.

BENGALS: Running back Chris Perry had surgery for a broken right leg, getting a pin inserted to help the bone heal correctly. He is out for the season.

BROWNS: Receiver Braylon Edwards apologized for Sunday's sideline tantrum. "The biggest thing I was trying to do was show how passionate I was about the game," he said. "We don't play chess. This isn't swimming." Coach Romeo Crennel said any discipline would be handled internally.

COLTS: Indianapolis, missing receiver Brandon Stokley for most of the season, signed free agent Ricky Proehl, 38, to a one-year deal, Proehl's agent said.

FALCONS: Michael Vick said Monday he would never make another obscene gesture to a fan as he did Sunday. "I would have never thought that six years into my career I would ever do something like that," Vick said. "It will never happen again. Never." He said a male fan made a particularly disturbing insult that he reacted to.

GIANTS: One day after blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead and losing 24-21 to the Titans, some veterans held a players-only meeting. At least six prominent players spoke "just to air things out," said linebacker Antonio Pierce.

JETS: Chad Pennington's surgically repaired right shoulder was fine a day after the quarterback landed on the arm.

PANTHERS: Jake Delhomme is getting too much of the blame for Carolina's offensive woes and will remain the starter ahead of former FSU standout Chris Weinke, coach John Fox said.

PATRIOTS: Linebacker Junior Seau will miss the rest of the season with an arm injury, possibly ending the career of the 12- time Pro Bowl player.

STEELERS: Receiver Hines Ward had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and will miss at least Sunday's game against the Bucs.

OBITUARY: Casey Coleman, whose voice was known to a generation of Clevelanders from doing play-by-play for the Browns and covering the city's other sports teams for nearly 30 years, died of pancreatic cancer Monday. He was 55. He is survived by his wife, daughters Chelsea and Kayla and stepdaughters Jackie, Kate, Carly and Taryn McDonell.

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