Worried about Tupa, Jets sign Pope

After Tom Tupa struggled against New England in his first game back from a pair of off-season injuries, the Jets added depth at punter Wednesday when they signed ex-Chiefs and ex-Bengals punter Daniel Pope.

Herman Edwards said Monday he had no plan to re-sign Tommy Parks as insurance for struggling punter Tom Tupa. But on Wednesday, the Jets hedged their bets with Tupa by signing punter Daniel Pope, formerly of the Bengals and Chiefs.

Pope, who played under current Jets GM Terry Bradway in Kansas City in 1999, registered a 41.8-yard average per punt with the Chiefs in '99 and a 40.2-yard average for the Bengals in 2000. Both totals are considerably better than the 35.4-yard average Tupa posted in nine punts against New England on Sunday.

The game against the Patriots marked Tupa's first action since last December's season finale against Baltimore. He first had hernia surgery in the offseason and then strained a hip in training camp which kept him out of all preseason games and the Jets' regular season opener against Indianapolis.

Tupa was a Pro Bowler just two years ago, so his job probably isn't in immediate jeopardy. On the other hand, the Jets know they won't be notching any playoff berths with a punter who averages 35 yards a kick.

"Not to put undue pressure on Tom, but we had to bring another guy in," Edwards said. "If he is still sore and has any apprehension about punting, then he shouldn't have to do it."

MORE ROSTER MOVES: The Jets-Patriots shuttle continued Wednesday as the Jets signed offensive lineman Josh Rawlings, who was on New England's inactive roster last season and placed on waivers by the Pats on Sept. 2. To make room for Rawlings, the Jets cut rookie guard Tupe Peko, a seventh-round draft pick who had been the only 2001 draftee not to make the final 53-man roster. Peko had been on the practice roster for the first two weeks of the season.

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE: Drew Bledsoe suffered internal bleeding and a concussion, injuries which should keep him out of action for several weeks, after Mo Lewis' lethal but legal hit on Bledsoe as he straddled the sideline during Sunday's game. Scary stuff, but it might have been scarier had Lewis not shown some restraint.

Edwards said Lewis let up a bit on Bledsoe because he saw the quarterback was nearly out of bounds. "It was [a] good [hit], but it was really smart on Mo because he really, really, really could have hit him hard and hurt him," Edwards said.

Tune in Sunday morning to the "New York Football Report," which can be heard from 10 to 11 a.m. on the radio at WDGA-850 AM in West Palm Beach and online at wdga.com. Jets Confidential Editor Dan Leberfeld and Giants Insider Editor Ken Palmer will co-host the show, which is sponsored by sportbet.com and will run every Sunday morning during the NFL season.

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