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Column as I see 'em: Benching players on an intermittent basis isn't good enough anymore. If Sabres coach Lindy Ruff wants to get the attention of his struggling team, he should take more dramatic measures such as sitting captain Michael Peca and his "star" defenseman Alexei Zhitnik. Watching Edgerrin James tear up the NFL makes you appreciate just how dominant Thurman Thomas was during his prime. James is on pace for 2,191 total yards. Thomas averaged 2,000 combined yards from 1989-92. I'm a little sick of these end-of- the-century lists (a lot sick, actually), but if they held a vote for the best Bill ever, Thurman would be my choice. You know there's too many college football bowl games when this sorry Syracuse team gets to play in one. Is UB in a bowl? Doc Rivers was one of the best minds in the NBA as a player, and now he's doing it in his first year as a head coach. Rivers has the Magic contending for a playoff spot with people named Armstrong, Amaechi, Atkins and Abdul-Wa had in his regular rotation. Talk about team chemistry. Orlando has nine different players averaging at least eight points a game. It's nice to see former St. Joe's hoop star Josh Sankes flourishing at Holy Cross. Sankes is averaging 15.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 32 minutes a game. And presumably, his new coach, Ralph Willard, hasn't forced him to run naked in practice the way Kevin Bannon did at Rutgers. Damien Foster, the other prominent Big East transfer from Buffalo's talented high school hoop class of 1995, hasn't been so successful after transferring from Boston College to UB. Foster is shooting just 31 percent and leads the Bulls in turnovers. It had to be extra painful for Sabres fans to watch Pat Verbeek score two goals for Detroit in Tuesday's debacle. Verbeek, 35, is just the kind of rugged veteran Buffalo desperately needs right now. Funny, the Sabres didn't feel he was worth grabbing in free agency, but he's good enough to play on the Red Wings' top line. Talk about playing the spoiler. The Jets' six victories in November and December have all been against teams struggling for the playoffs: Miami twice, Buffalo, Arizona, New England and Dallas. Bill Parcells isn't saying whether he'll come back next year, but if he does it'll be bad news for the Bills and the rest of the AFC. Something told me Terry Glenn was suffering from more than the flu when he failed to show up for the Patriots game against the Bills on Sunday. The Pats confirmed it Wednesday by suspending Glenn for the final game for "not adhering to team policy" by ignoring requests to meet with medical personnel. The Pats made an exception in this case but why is it these "team policies" are seldom made public? Marshall's 21-3 win over Brigham Young in the Motor City Bowl was further proof that college football needs a playoff system. Without it, there's no way an unbeaten team from a lesser league can prove itself worthy of a national title. Remember how bad Baltimore's Tony Banks looked against the Bills in that 13-10 loss on Oct. 31? Since that game, he's thrown for 15 touchdowns, more than any of the AFC Pro Bowl quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Mark Brunell and Rich Gannon). The Yankees will miss Joe Girardi more than you might imagine. The pitchers trusted him behind the plate in big games, he was a clutch hitter, and he was a solid, stand-up presence in the locker room. I swear, ESPN gave Redskins owner Daniel Snyder more time on camera than Brad Johnson last Sunday night. Did we really need to witness the young punk's reaction to every play? The Celtics have lost 11 straight road games and are quickly falling out of playoff contention. They'll never win with Antoine Walker as the star. Walker says it's amazing how many opponents have career nights against them. Uh, 'Toine, think it has anything to do with your shabby defense? True, the Sabres' goalies have been generally solid this year. But they don't get into the heads of the other teams, either, and they don't infuse the Buffalo players with the same confidence that Dominik Hasek does when he's on top of his game.

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