Notebook: Bell back down

<b>PITTSBURGH –</b> On Wednesday, Kendrell Bell missed practice because of the flu.<br><Br> On Wednesday night, Bell appeared at Tri-Star Motors in Connellsville to raise money for the Connellsville Area Community Ministries. He signed autographs, posed for photos and talked football.

"I'm fine right now," the Steelers' linebacker told a local reporter.

On Thursday, Bell was sent home from the Steelers' practice facility because his flu had worsened.

"Kendrell's flu is pretty significant," said coach Bill Cowher, who downgraded Bell to questionable and said he'd re-evaluate Bell on Saturday.

The game would be the 14th missed this season by Bell, who's in the final year of his contract. His status is similar to that of another defensive star who'll miss Saturday's game, although New York Jets defensive end John Abraham yesterday lashed out at New York reporters who'd been intimating that Abraham is sitting out to protect his off-season contract chase.

"I never said anything about a contract," Abraham said. "That's crazy. I said ‘my future' and it was taken out of context. The only thing I ever said was I would be happy if I got franchised here. I never said I wanted a contract. That's completely off the wall."

Jets coach Herm Edwards expects Abraham to miss his sixth consecutive game with a sprained knee.

"I doubt if he plays," Edwards said.

It's also doubtful Bell plays. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year may have suited up for the final time as a member of the Steelers. Last off-season, Bell turned down a generous contract offer from the Steelers, and he isn't expected to return at a significantly lower cost.

Cowher, of course, isn't looking that far ahead. "A little bit of everything," was how he described Bell's illness. "It's a pretty significant fever so we'll see where he is. He's home. We sent him home today."

Bell was the only player to miss the Steelers' practice on Thursday.

PENNINGTON RETURNS

Jets quarterback Chad Pennington returned to practice after a 24-hour bout with the flu. But his back-up, Quincy Carter, has been scratched from the game after missing a second practice this week.

Carter left the team to be with his ill mother in Georgia. The Jets' back-up quarterback will instead be Brooks Bollinger, a second-year player out of Wisconsin who has appeared in one regular-season game.

As for Pennington, "it was just a 24-hour virus and everything is fine now," he told New York reporters. "I was just hoping I could get better. I was hoping it was one of those quick things, which it was. Other than that you hurry up and get fluids and get as much rest as you can and concentrate on what you have to do."

MIGHT, LIGHTS AND TERRIBLE TOWELS

The Steelers have donated 50 tickets to soldiers who've returned home to Pittsburgh after more than a year's service in Iraq.

Also, military personnel will take part in what's being touted as the world's largest Terrible Towel wave. The Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau is behind the effort to have Steelers fans all over the world swing their Terrible Towels in unison one minute before kickoff. Fans at Heinz Field will be cued by an announcement.

On Saturday night, office buildings downtown will stay lit. The highlight is expected to be the 64-story US Steel Tower, which will display the Steelers logo by a choreographed series of lit and darkened windows.

QUOTABLE

Cowher on his playing days in Philadelphia with current Jets coach Herm Edwards:

"Well, Herm was a starter. He was first unit and I was that fourth-down player on the special teams. Herm was a good player. He was out there working every day. He was an accountable player and I enjoyed working with him. We had a good relationship when we worked there and played together. And then when I was in Kansas City he was in the personnel department and we met periodically there as well. He has done a great job up there and he has a good feel for the game."

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