NFL notebook

Dolphins jettison special teams coach

Bonamego takes the fall after embarrassing effort

Associated Press / October 6, 2010

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The prime-time meltdown by the Dolphins’ special teams cost an assistant coach his job.

Only 12 hours after a calamitous performance against the Patriots, the Dolphins fired special teams coordinator John Bonamego yesterday.

Special teams cost Miami 21 points in the 41-14 loss Monday night. Two blocked kicks led to touchdowns, and the Patriots returned a kickoff 103 yards for another score.

The Dolphins (2-2) also had a punt blocked a week earlier in a loss to the New York Jets. The back-to-back divisional defeats dropped Miami to third place in the AFC East.

Assistant special teams coach Darren Rizzi will replace Bonamego, coach Tony Sparano said. Bonamego was in his 12th NFL season and had been with the Dolphins since Sparano became head coach in 2008.

“It’s a hard decision to make,’’ Sparano said. “I know how hard this guy works. Nobody works harder than him at what he does.’’

Unlike Bonamego, quarterback Chad Henne won’t lose his job. Sparano said he’ll stick with Henne despite an erratic three-interception performance that accelerated the Dolphins’ self-destruction.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,’’ Miami cornerback Jason Allen said. “You can’t expect to win when you’re playing a team like — actually, any team. I don’t care who you’re playing, when we do the things we did.’’

Linebacker Tim Dobbins plays on special teams and said he was embarrassed.

“We all should be,’’ he said. “We let the whole team down.’’

The Dolphins rank last in the NFL in punting, last in kickoff coverage, and 25th in kickoff returns. Continual turnover at the bottom of the roster may contribute to their special teams woes; in the past month, they’ve made 19 roster moves.

“That’s part of the special teams challenge, when you bring new players in and you get them involved,’’ Sparano said.

The Dolphins need to figure out quickly how to block for kicks and cover them better. That responsibility now rests with Rizzi, a former coach at New Haven who took his first NFL job when Sparano hired him last year.

“He’s a very smart guy who has his own way of doing things,’’ Sparano said. “He’ll have his own spin on the special teams area. It’s important that we have some continuity there and fix the problems.’’

The fix might mean more players in the offensive and defensive rotations contributing. Defensive regulars Dobbins, Cameron Wake, and Chris Clemons already have roles on kicking units.

“I want my core players to play better on special teams,’’ Sparano said. “If we need to put some starters out there, then we will.’’

Union seeks fans’ support
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith sees new signs that owners are preparing for a football-free 2011.

With support from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Smith asked fans to take the players’ side.

Speaking at a tailgate-style fan luncheon a few blocks from Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., yesterday, Smith referred to a recent Sports Business Journal report that said the NFL is requiring banks that lend money to its teams to extend grace periods for loan defaults through the end of the 2011 season in the event of a lockout.

“That to me is a step where the owners are protecting themselves in the event that there is no season,’’ Smith said.

Smith said the move, along with provisions in television deals that provide for some payments even if there is a lockout, are evidence that owners are planning for the possibility that there won’t be a season in 2011.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello noted the players are going through the process of approving the potential decertification of their union, a move that could be seen as preparing for protracted negotiations.

“There are many preparations taking place, including the union preparing to decertify and go out of business,’’ Aiello said. “Our focus is on negotiating a new agreement with the union. The longer it goes, the tougher it will be.’’

Lynch shuffled off to Seattle
The Bills gave up on Marshawn Lynch as their featured ball carrier, trading him to the Seahawks for a pair of undisclosed draft picks. That clears the way to give more playing time for Fred Jackson and first-round draft pick C.J. Spiller in the Buffalo backfield.

“We bring a guy into the program that we think is going to give us a little boost,’’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “You know that we’ve emphasized trying to get this running game in order. We hope that he’ll help in that regard.’’

Seattle released running back Julius Jones, its leading rusher the past two seasons, to clear a spot for Lynch. Jones took a hefty pay cut just before the start of the season, then carried the ball just 12 times for 30 yards and was inactive Sunday.

Portis doubts availability
Clinton Portis doesn’t think his injured groin will allow him to play in the Redskins’ game Sunday against the Packers. Portis told 107.7 The Fan that he’s awaiting the results of an MRI on his left groin, which he injured in Sunday’s 17-12 win over Philadelphia. “I don’t think the team would even let me attempt to go and try to play on Sunday,’’ Portis said. “But who knows? I’m going to take my time and make sure I’m healed.’’ . . . The Colts’ already beleaguered defense took another hit as safety Melvin Bullitt, Bob Sanders’s replacement, will miss the rest of the season with a right shoulder injury. He is scheduled to have surgery on the injured shoulder and will be placed on injured reserve. The former undrafted free agent had started 24 of Indy’s past 36 regular-season games, mostly in place of the oft-injured Sanders, who is out with a torn biceps muscle in his right arm . . . The Jaguars released quarterback Todd Bouman, ensuring that Trent Edwards will return to Buffalo as the only QB behind David Garrard. Jacksonville plays the winless Bills Sunday.

Panthers’ Jarrett jailed again
Panthers receiver Dwayne Jarrett was arrested on a charge of driving while impaired for the second time in less than three years, authorities said. Jarrett was pulled over on Interstate 77 in Charlotte, N.C., for speeding shortly before 2 a.m. yesterday, police said. Jarrett declined to take a breath test to determine his blood-alcohol content and results of the ensuing blood test won’t be known for several weeks. His first court appearance is scheduled for today. Jarrett’s arrest puts his future with Carolina in doubt after a disappointing four seasons that have included just 35 catches and one touchdown. Jarrett was arrested in March 2008 in a Charlotte suburb after police say he crossed the center line and ran a red light. The police report said Jarrett’s blood-alcohol level was .12, above North Carolina’s legal limit of .08. Jarrett pleaded guilty to driving while impaired three months later, was fined $420 and ordered to perform community service . . . Linebacker Robert James, who was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, was waived by the Falcons . . . The Titans placed top draft pick Derrick Morgan on injured reserve and replaced the defensive end with defensive tackle Amon Gordon. Morgan, the 16th overall pick out of Georgia Tech, has a torn left anterior cruciate ligament.

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