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BLEDSOE'S STATUS REMAINS UNCERTAIN FOR GAME AGAINST BILLS

Everywhere New England coach Pete Carroll went this week, people wanted to know about "the finger."

On Friday, Carroll said the curious would have to wait a little longer to learn if the right index finger Drew Bledsoe fractured during Monday night's 26-23 win over Miami would be ready for Sunday's matchup against Doug Flutie and the Buffalo Bills.

"With a player of this magnitude, we'll use all the time we have," Carroll said Friday. "We're going to wait and see. We don't know what it's going to be like. Any information that we have for a broken index finger and playing quarterback -- nobody has that one for us. There's every intention, that, if possible, we are going to do it."

Bledsoe was injured when his finger hit Miami defensive tackle Shane Burton during the winning drive over the Dolphins. He had trouble gripping the ball after that, but still completed 4 of 7 passes for 54 yards after being hurt.

His final pass was a 25-yard touchdown to Shawn Jefferson with 29 seconds left that won the game.

"I messed around a little today and then I'll try to do a little something tomorrow and see what happens," Bledsoe said Friday. "But it probably will end up being more of a game-time decision, I think. I don't know when, in fact, we'll make the decision, but nothing's been decided yet."

If Bledsoe can't play, Scott Zolak, an eight-year veteran with just 181 career passes, and punter/quarterback Tom Tupa will be ready to get the call.

Although Bledsoe didn't practice Friday, the team remains hopeful that he will be ready for Sunday, receiver Tony Simmons said.

"If he wants to play, he'll play," Simmons said. "And he really wants to play. It'll be up to the coaches to decide. If he can play, we welcome it, because we need him."

Sad tale for Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- It sounds like the most incredible tall tale ever: An NFL team loses because the referee misses the easiest call in football, the coin flip.

The Pittsburgh Steelers believe it following one of the most bizarre finishes in league history, one that someday may rank on the improbability scale alongside the Immaculate Reception. Tails, they lost.

The Steelers were scattered among all corners of the United States on Friday, celebrating a late Thanksgiving and cursing a 19-16 overtime defeat Thursday in Detroit -- and perhaps the first blown coin toss in NFL history.

"It was the weirdest game I've ever been involved with," running back Jerome Bettis said.

There is no such thing as appealing a defeat in the NFL, but the Steelers (7-5) probably feel like asking for a hearing -- if only to question referee Phil Luckett's hearing.

The NFL said Friday it would have no comment on the coin flip controversy, but is conducting a review of the events surrounding the coin flip and expects to conclude that review next week.

As captains Carnell Lake and Bettis lined up for the overtime coin flip, Luckett asked which captain would make the call. Bettis volunteered.

As Luckett flipped the coin, CBS-TV replays disclosed a slight pause before Bettis said, hurriedly but distinctly, "Tails."

However, radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh said Friday it enhanced the audio of a CBS-TV tape and detected someone faintly saying "heads" before Bettis called "tails." The station could not determine who uttered "heads" -- either one of the Steelers or Lions.

Luckett picked up the coin, turned to the Lions captains, acknowledged it was tails -- and, amazingly, asked if they wished to kick or receive. The Lions subsequently drove for Jason Hanson's game-winning 42-yard field goal, and the Steelers never saw the ball again.

Cowboys hope for rematch

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys hope they can play the Minnesota Vikings again in the playoffs in January with a healthy Deion Sanders.

But would it do any good against sensational Randy Moss, the wide receiver the Cowboys wouldn't take because of his off-the-field problems?

Moss burned the Cowboys for three touchdowns on only three receptions in a 46-36 Vikings victory Thursday.

Greg Ellis, the defensive end who was picked in the first round of the NFL draft by the Cowboys instead of Moss, said the Vikings "are the most explosive offense that we've faced."

Moss caught two touchdown passes for 56 yards and another for 51. He also drew a 50-yard interference penalty that set up another score.

"It would have been a different game if we were healthy," Ellis said. "But we should have won anyway."

Packers issue laser warning

GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- The Packers warned their fans against using laser pointers at games.

Citing the inherent danger in their use, the Packers said any fan using a laser pointer would be dealt with harshly. The NFL has directed its teams to adopt a firm policy against lasers after receiving reports the pointers were being aimed at players and game officials during games.

Jerry Parins, corporate security officer for the Packers, said the devices will be confiscated by stadium security.

Unitas sides against Colts

BALTIMORE -- Johnny Unitas will be rooting against the Colts this Sunday, even though the Hall of Fame quarterback set 51 franchise records while wearing the team's familiar blue and white uniform for 17 seasons.

Unitas and thousands of Baltimore residents severed ties with the Colts after Robert Irsay relocated the franchise to Indianapolis in March 1984. Unitas now cheers for the Ravens, who ended Baltimore's exile from the NFL by moving from Cleveland before the 1996 season.

When the Colts return to Baltimore on Sunday for the first time since their move, Unitas just might experience a pang of nostalgia when he sees the dark blue horseshoe on the white helmet he once wore with pride.

But he will not experience anger, nor will he crave revenge.

"I don't have a personal vendetta. I back the Ravens now," Unitas said Friday. "Baltimore is my hometown and I cheer for the home team. To me, it's just another football game that I'd like to see the Ravens win."

Unitas, who played in Baltimore from 1956 to 1972, understands why Irsay loaded up the team's equipment and uniforms on that snowy night in 1984. But he would have liked to see him leave the team record book behind.

"I know Irsay left because he got a better business deal somewhere else," Unitas said. "Sure, I was upset that we lost a franchise. But the thing that really gets me is that they continue to use our records in their press guide. That's shameful."

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