Ravens, Cards Fire Offensive Coordinators

Wednesday, October 18th 2006, 5:42 am
By: News On 6

A pair of NFL offensive coordinators lost their jobs for failing to produce points. A couple of players will have to sit out for awhile for failing drug tests.

Offensive coordinators Jim Fassel of the Ravens and Keith Rowen of the Cardinals were fired Tuesday, while Atlanta guard Matt Lehr and Detroit defensive tackle Shaun Rogers were suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Packers wideout and kick returner Koren Robinson was suspended a year for a drunk driving incident.

Tuesday also happened to be the NFL's trading deadline, which passed with only one major deal: Tampa Bay sent defensive tackle Anthony McFarland to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2nd round pick in next year's draft.

``It's disappointing to be leaving a place where you have so many friends, but I'm excited to be going to a 5-0 team that's in the hunt for everything you play for in this game,'' McFarland said.

Baltimore coach Brian Billick announced Fassel's dismissal in a news conference at the Ravens' headquarters, calling the firing of his close friend and former Giants coach ``one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make.''

``Clearly, in order for us to expand on our 4-2 start, we have to have more offensive productivity,'' Billick said. ``It was my opinion going forward, in order to bring about the level of production that we need offensively, to get where we want to go, that I needed to step back in on a day to day basis.''

Billick said he will assume the duties of offensive coordinator, which includes calling plays on game days.

Cardinals quarterbacks coach Mike Kruczek replaced Rowen in Arizona, becoming Dennis Green's third offensive coordinator in the coach's 2 1/2 seasons in Arizona. Rowen took the job after Alex Wood was fired following the 2004 season.

``I don't hesitate to make changes. That's just who I am,'' Green said. ``I like things to go a certain way, and if they don't, I normally do something about it.''

Green said Rowen had nothing to do with the strange series of plays that led to the Cardinals blowing a 20 point lead in a 24-23 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night.

Rogers will be suspended for taking a banned, over the counter substance, an official within the league told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the NFL is expected to announce the suspension Wednesday.

The NFL announced a 4 game suspension for Lehr and a year long one for Robinson, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of drunken driving and fleeing police stemming from a high speed chase in August.

Robinson's agent, Alvin Keels, said in a telephone interview he was surprised the league didn't wait until after Robinson's legal issues in Minnesota had been resolved to issue the suspension.

Keels said Robinson was disappointed by the decision.

``He seems to be handling it well,'' Keels said. ``I think he's in a state of shock right now. We thought the league would wait. But obviously, they're trying to make a statement.''

Lehr, 27, will be eligible to return to the Falcons' active roster on November 13th.

``Obviously, we are disappointed, but the NFL's policies are very clear that all NFL players are responsible for what goes into their bodies, regardless of the source,'' coach Jim Mora said in a statement. ``We have options to replace Matt over the next four weeks that we are very comfortable with.''

The Falcons lead the NFL in rushing yardage for the second straight season.

The Buccaneers also signed former Texans cornerback Phillip Buchanon.

The Bucs are thin at cornerback because starter Brian Kelly is injured and backups Juran Bolden and Torrie Cox are banged up, too. Buchanon has 34 starts in 50 career games since entering the league in 2002, although most of his contribution with the Texans came on special teams as a punt returner.