Tampa Bay's Warrick Dunn made it a sweep for Florida State today, joining college teammate Peter Boulware as an Associated Press NFL rookie of the year.
Dunn, the versatile running back who played a major role in the Buccaneers' turnaround this season, was chosen Offensive Rookie of the Year in voting conducted by the AP. Buffalo running back Antowain Smith finished fourth.
A nationwide panel of sports writers and broadcasters selected Boulware, a linebacker for Baltimore, as the top defensive rookie on Tuesday.
"Where we went to school, you tend to experience things that other players don't experience -- the media, the competition, the hoopla, the experience of playing big games," Dunn said. "That is every day here. In college, you only play three or four (big) games a year; I just got a taste of it. It was just a matter of making adjustments for 16 games and not four or five games."
Dunn, the only rookie to make the Pro Bowl this year, was one of four running backs among the five players receiving votes. He got 28, with Corey Dillon of Cincinnati earning 13, Arizona's Jake Plummer picking up four, and the Bills' Smith and Tiki Barber of the New York Giants receiving one apiece. One member of the 48-person panel refused to vote.
"I wish I could have scored more touchdowns and gained more yards. But I'm just a rookie," said Dunn, who rushed for 978 yards and four touchdowns, caught 39 passes for 462 yards and three scores, and was an impact player from the beginning. "Hopefully over time, I'll get better, my body will get stronger, mentally I'll get stronger and wiser to the game."
"A guy who can take it the distance just about any time he touches the ball," Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Shula said in describing Dunn. "I think it takes pressure off everybody else."
Boulware, an All-America defensive end at Florida State, made the difficult switch to linebacker this year despite missing the first five weeks of training camp because of a contract dispute.
Despite his late start, Boulware finished with 11.5 sacks, and Tuesday was selected NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year by The Associated Press. He started all 16 games for Baltimore and finished with 66 tackles.
Boulware's sack total was third in the AFC (Bruce Smith led with 14) and one short of the record for an NFL rookie held by San Diego's Leslie O'Neal.
"There were some little things I could have learned in training camp," said Boulware, who held out the first five weeks in a contract dispute. "I probably could have gotten two or three more sacks and I could have had the record."
The last time college teammates won the rookie honors was in 1992, when Kansas City cornerback Dale Carter and Cincinnati wide receiver Carl Pickens did it out of Tennessee.
Brown fighting back
DETROIT -- Weary, but intent on tackling the biggest challenge of his life, Detroit linebacker Reggie Brown is fighting a neck injury that left him temporarily unconscious and without motor function.
"He seems very tired," Dr. Russell Nockels said Tuesday at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital, where Brown remained in stable condition two days after the injury in the Lions' regular-season finale.
"He's been through quite a bit. But overall, he's taking this on very well and trying hard to improve."
During a four-hour surgery Monday, Nockels fused the first two vertebra of Brown's neck and fitted him with a neck brace he must wear for the next three months.
Doctors have said Brown's playing career likely is finished. Whether he walks again -- or regains normal functioning of his limbs -- also remain to be seen, Nockels said Tuesday.
"Of all the injuries one can have, I think injuries to the spine can be the worst," Nockels said of damage that can take a year to manifest itself. "Very, very few patients -- almost none -- return to normal levels of function."
To Nockels, the athlete's recovery appears evident in the fact that muscles in his limbs work, but are weak. Moments after sustaining the spinal bruise, Brown was paralyzed and needed a ventilator. He now breathes unassisted.
The Lions, preparing for Sunday's wild-card playoff game at Tampa Bay, will wear Brown's No. 59 on their jerseys or wristbands in a tribute to their teammate.
Carroll pull for snow job
FOXBORO, Mass. -- All Pete Carroll had to do was glance out the window to see one reason he wanted so badly to play his first playoff game at home -- a blanket of snow covering the field.
It was a reminder that the warm-weather Miami Dolphins might not handle frigid conditions as well as his winter-hardened New England Patriots.
"You're bringing a southern team into this atmosphere. It's challenging," the Patriots coach said Tuesday. "We have to take advantage of that."
Just 13 hours earlier, the site of Sunday's rematch was set when the Patriots (10-6) won, 14-12, in Miami to beat out the Dolphins (9-7) for the AFC East title. Had the Dolphins won, the game would have been in Miami.
Although no snow is forecast for Sunday, temperatures from the mid-teens to the mid-30s are expected.
Add that to the fact the Dolphins have lost seven consecutive road playoff games since their last win in 1972, and the Patriots should have a decent shot at going 3-0 this season against Miami.
Polian delays decision
INDIANAPOLIS -- The new team president of the Indianapolis Colts says that selecting a coach for the team has a higher priority than deciding on how it will use the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Bill Polian spent his first full day on the job meeting with his assistant coaches and laying a foundation for rebuilding a franchise that finished with the NFL's worst record less than two years after nearly winning the AFC championship.
Polian, who signed a six-year contract on Monday, said he doesn't expect to make a decision on a coach until early next year.
"It's very much a priority. I don't expect that it will be done very quickly," he said.
He's told the assistants to keep working, and that whoever is hired as coach will make the final decision on their retention.
The Colts have the first pick in April's draft, and speculation is they will select quarterback Peyton Manning of Tennessee. Polian said it's too early to make a decision.
"There is no reason to decide today what you can put off for tomorrow," he said.
Around the league
Dick Jamieson was fired as offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals following a season in which the team was last in the NFL in rushing and 24th in total offense.
Archie Manning is leaving the broadcasting booth, saying he wants his Sundays off so he can follow the impending NFL career of his son, Peyton. Archie Manning has been color analyst for Saints games since 1985 on WWL.
NFL BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive Rookie Voting
Voting for the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year as selected by a media panel:
Warrick Dunn, Tampa Bay 28
Corey Dillon, Cincinnati 13
Jake Plummer, Arizona 4
Antowain Smith, Buffalo 1
Tiki Barber, NY Giants 1
Defensive Rookie Voting
Peter Boulware, Baltimore 36
Derrick Rodgers, Miami 3
Sammy Knight, New Orleans 3
Dexter Coakley, Dallas 2
Jason Taylor, Miami 2
Bryant Westbrook, Detroit 1
1998 Draft First Round
Order for the first round of the 1998 NFL draft. The draft will be held on April 18-19 in New York (x-compensatory selection):
3. San Diego
6. St. Louis
7. New Orleans
18. New York Jets
22. x-New England
23. x-Tampa Bay
24. x-New York Giants
28. x-Green Bay
29. x-San Francisco
30. x-Kansas City
x-subject to playoffs; the Super Bowl champion will select 30th and the runner-up 29th.