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Saints' Brooks benched

N.O. players to get $40k for Katrina

Struggling New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks has been benched for the rest of the season.

''It's not an indictment of Aaron whatsoever," coach Jim Haslett said after practice yesterday. ''It's an indictment on our record."

Haslett said he was replacing Brooks with Todd Bouman for Sunday's game against Carolina in Baton Rouge, La., because of the Saints' 3-10 record. Brooks, struggling through his worst year in seven seasons, said he didn't argue when told of Haslett's decision. ''I just took it like a man," said Brooks, who has thrown 17 interceptions and 13 touchdown passes this season. ''I accept it. Ain't nothing I can do about it anyway."

Bouman, who is in his ninth season out of St. Cloud State, started three games for Minnesota in 2001.

Meanwhile, Haslett said he hasn't discussed whether he will return as coach next season. He added he would like to know his contract status before the end of this season. Haslett, who is in his sixth season, was asked about a report by the NFL Network that he's planning to resign at the end of this season and had recently asked owner Tom Benson to fire him. ''I haven't talked to Mr. Benson about any of that at all," Haslett said.

Earlier in the day it was announced the Saints players will get a $40,000 bonus from the NFL and the NFL Players Association for ''performing under unusual and unanticipated conditions arising from the Hurricane Katrina tragedy."

Snap judgments

Bills veteran backup Kelly Holcomb will start against Denver Saturday in place of the injured J.P. Losman. He hurt his right (throwing) shoulder and his left leg but continued playing in Buffalo's 35-7 loss against New England last Sunday. Coach Mike Mularkey said medical tests on Losman's shoulder Tuesday were negative. It's not clear when Losman was hurt against the Patriots, but he was sacked twice and knocked down numerous times. He began bouncing passes to receivers as the game progressed, finishing 10 of 27 for 181 yards and a career-worst three interceptions . . . Marques Tuiasosopo was sent back to the bench when Oakland made another quarterback change, moving Kerry Collins back into the starting role for Sunday's game against Cleveland. The Raiders (4-9) have lost three straight games and will endure a third straight losing season for the first time since owner Al Davis came aboard in 1963 . . . Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick downplayed his bruised ribs after missing most of practice yesterday, saying he will start Sunday night against Chicago. ''No concerns," Vick said. ''I'll be out there. I guarantee it. The game is a must-win situation."

Leftwich is optimistic

Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich is no longer wearing a protective boot on his injured left foot and remains hopeful he will return this season. Leftwich injured his ankle Nov. 27 at Arizona. Instead of having season-ending surgery, he let the ankle heal in hopes of returning -- most likely for the playoffs. ''There's not a lot of pain," Leftwich said. ''There's still a lot of swelling. It's still broken. Bone doesn't heel in two weeks." . . . Darrell Jackson, Seattle's leading receiver, practiced fully and will start for the first time in 10 games Sunday at Tennessee. Jackson has not played since Oct. 2 at Washington, the last time Seattle lost. Ten days later, Jackson, who was leading the team with 29 receptions, elected to have right knee surgery . . . Jets running back Curtis Martin, 32, underwent season-ending surgery on his right knee. Martin was injured against Miami in Week 2 but continued to play. Martin, who finished this season with 735 yards, failed to become the first player in NFL history to start a career with 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons.

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