Tuesday tidbits

Rookie Channing Crowder likely will take Zach Thomas' place at middle linebacker in the starting lineup Sunday at Oakland and for as long as Thomas is out. That is still a question mark, but Coach Nick Saban is expecting Thomas to miss at least two games.

Crowder spent a good part of the preseason at middle linebacker, so he's familiar with the position. Who will start alongside Crowder at linebacker on Sunday will depend on Junior Seau's leg.

Seau, who was wearing a walking boot after the game at Cleveland at Sunday, will start at weakside linebacker with Donnie Spragan at strongside linebacker if he can go, otherwise Derrick Pope would start on the weak side.

As for Thomas, we still don't know the extent of the separation of his right shoulder, but even in a best-case scenario he likely will have to play with a harness upon his return.

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Kick returner Wes Welker says he's fine, but he was walking around in a protective boot in the locker room on Monday. Welker was stepped on during the game at Cleveland.

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If a team starts 10-0, you know Coach Don Shula is going to be asked about the possibility of the 1972 Dolphins' perfect season being matched, and so it was that he did a conference call with national media on Tuesday. Shula, incidentally, says he believes Indianapolis is good enough to go 16-0 this season.

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This has been a tough couple of days for Saban, who found out late Sunday night about the death of Bill Belichick's father, Steve. Saban and Steve Belichick were assistants together on the staff at Navy in 1982 and had remained friends. "Terry and I and our family send our condolences, no doubt, but also just feel terrible because Steve and Jeannette are really our good friends," Saban said Monday. "That is how we got to know Bill; it was our association with Steve and Jeannette. So this is a tough one for me."

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