AFC WEST: HOT NEWS

Notes from around the division on free-agent players, new coaches, surgeries and keys to success for certain teams, as we compile Hot News from around the AFC West.


The San Diego Chargers:

End of the line?

Steve Christie is past his prime and the Chargers, once again, should be looking hard for a kicker -- we promise not to raise GM John Butler's blood pressure by mentioning either John Carney or Wade Richey.

Not expected back

Orlando Ruff, once a starting linebacker for the Chargers, is not expected back for the 2003 season. He handled a demotion well in 2002 as Ben Leber took over the role of started as a rookie, but Ruff contends he is a starter in the NFL and will look to go somewhere he can get ample time on defense and not just the special teams time he had this past year in San Diego.

Possible move to safety

Cornerback Ryan McNeil is still being thought of as a potential candidate to move to free safety. He no longer possesses the make up speed to be truly effective at cornerback but could do well reading plays in the role of a free safety. He has a definite nose for the ball and has the smarts to play the position. The question is whether the coaching staff is willing to chance a totally revamped secondary for next year.

Signed and shipped to Europe

Defensive back Lemual Ligon, signed as a free agent on Jan. 21, has been assigned to the NFL Europe, where he will play for the Rhein Fire after being a 10-round pick in the allocated players draft.

Yet to decide on future

The Kansas City Chiefs

Trade bait?

The team isn't trying to get rid of John Tait, but ESPN.com is reporting the Chiefs might be willing to listen to offers from team, like Houston, who might need to upgrade at left tackle. Tait played on the right side last season after Willie Roaf was acquired.

Interest from Chiefs

Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil has a top pass rusher on the top of his list of needs this offseason, and Hugh Douglas' name has been floated as a possible candidate.

Competition next season?

The Chiefs are unlikely to re-sign Ray Crockett, which means a new nickel cornerback will be brought in. That could also put pressure on William Bartee to step up his game. "He's our starting cornerback," Vermeil said of Bartee in an interview with the Kansas City Star. "That doesn't mean somebody won't come up and beat you out. But we haven't seen the best of William Bartee. We're not signing anybody to take his job."

Europe bound

TE Dwayne Blakley has been allocated to play in NFL Europe this spring.

Still going strong

The line stayed in tact for all 16 games, which was a bit surprising, considering that Willie Roaf was coming back from ACL surgery in the final year of his illustrious career at New Orleans. He may not be the Willie Roaf of the 1990s, but he's still plenty good, especially in pass protection where he gave up two sacks all year. He and Will Shields won Pro Bowl berths, and not just on reputation.

Chiefs future uncertain

Snoop Minnis missed most of the season while recovering from an offseason foot injury, and Sylvester Morris missed it all -- the second straight year of inactivity because of a knee injury. Their futures in KC are uncertain.

The Oakland Raiders

Breathing fire

Ryan Prince will play for the Barcelona Dragons in the NFL Europe this spring. He was a third-round pick in the allocated players draft.

Great Scot!

Algie Atkinson will be playing football in NFL Europe this spring after being selected by Scotland in the third round of the allocated players draft.

Doubts validity of Robbins story

"Everybody's confused," said Middleton, who did not specifically make reference to Robbins' diagnosis during the interview. "We never knew B-Rob as a depressed guy. He always seemed fine to us. When the news came out in the media, it was like people on the team were hearing it for the first time. "It's kind of shocking. Is it true or is his agent doing some covering up of some of the problems or issues that he had? We're still on the fence right now. Everybody's trying to figure out what's going on."

Europe bound

Justin Bland has been allocated to NFL Europe. He was the ninth overall pick by Scotland in the allocated players draft.

Apologizes for Super Bowl episode

"Barret would like to express his remorse and deep sadness for the events surrounding the Super Bowl," Robbins' agent Drew Pittman said in the statement. "He knows many people have been hurt by his actions, including his family, his teammates, the Raider organization, the Raider Nation, and the game of football."

Hasn't made retirement decision yet

Trace Armstrong ($2.2 million) ended the last two seasons with a torn Achilles and a torn groin. He hasn't made a decision, but would have to be a candidate for retirement at age 37.

Time with Raiders done?

S Anthony Dorsett's deal takes a hike from $750,000 to $3.05 million. He was a starter late in the season but has had a streaky career and there is no reason to keep both him and Rod Woodson.

Hot News compiled from ChargersUpdate.com, ChiefsInsider.com, Silver & Black Illustrated Online.

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