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Practice heated up Friday for the Tennessee Titans, and not just because they moved inside to the Georgia Dome, site of Sunday's Super Bowl XXXIV against the St. Louis Rams.

Receiver Derrick Mason and safety Blaine Bishop came to blows in the final session of the 1-hour, 40-minute practice. Bishop had been covering Mason on a pass in a two-minute drill when the ball fell incomplete, and Mason accused the safety of hitting him in the helmet.

The two started fighting and had to be separated by teammates. Mason and Bishop didn't want to stop and were ordered off the field.

Following practice, Fisher pulled his players and coaches together for a talk. Then he spoke privately with Bishop and Mason for several minutes. The players hugged and then left.

"It's over with," Fisher said. "They compete. They are highly competitive. That happens over the course of the season. Did you see them walk off the field together? Those two are about as competitive guys as I've got."

Practice was moved from Georgia Tech to the Dome in anticipation of a winter storm hitting the city, and the change allowed the Titans to get used to the artificial turf.

Quarterback Steve McNair didn't take as many snaps as Thursday, when he handled about 80 percent of the drills. But at least McNair practiced, something he didn't do a week ago before the AFC championship due to a sore toe.

Receiver Yancey Thigpen, who has a hairline fracture in his right foot, did not practice for a third straight day, but he was not listed among the first group of players deactivated.

Tagliabue has some concerns

ATLANTA -- Commissioner Paul Tagliabue acknowledged that the NFL is concerned about off-field crimes committed by its players. He also said those crimes are part of a deeper problem.

"I think our track record is better than society at large," Tagliabue said Friday at his annual Super Bowl news conference. "On the other hand, we don't tolerate violence. We don't condone it."

The NFL's well-polished image has been sullied this season by a number of off-field arrests.

Tagliabue acknowledged that minorities have not been getting as many head coaching positions as he would like. The commissioner pointed out that the New York Jets have just elevated Maurice Carthon to assistant head coach and that Ted Cottrell, Buffalo's defensive coordinator, is well-respected in the NFL.

"I think we have people in the pipeline, but in the long run, it's the owner's decision on who to hire," he said.

Tagliabue also said there was a 50-50 chance that the NFL would implement a flexible TV schedule for December games next year. The league would have the right to shift games from Sunday to Monday night in order to provide more attractive late-season matchups for national television.

The commissioner also said San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr.'s year-long suspension will be over next month, but it will be up to a federal judge to determine if he regains control of the team.

The NFL fined DeBartolo $1 million and suspended him through the 1999 season after the owner pleaded guilty to a felony charge relating to his pursuit of a riverboat gambling license in Louisiana.

Super Bowl bits

The brother of Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse won't get to watch the Super Bowl and might not even learn the outcome of the game until six days later. Joseph Kearse, who is serving 7 1/2 years for armed robbery, is under disciplinary confinement for a Jan. 1 fight at DeSoto Correctional Institution in Arcadia, Fla. He is not permitted to watch TV, listen to the radio, read a newspaper or use a telephone until Feb. 5. Prison officials say the only way he will learn the outcome of the game is if a guard tells him.

Delta Airlines has canceled as many as half its flights through Atlanta Friday and today because of a winter storm, leaving many fans without a way to the game. The third-biggest U.S. carrier said travelers should anticipate cancellations and delays through Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport through this evening because of snow and freezing rain. Delta's headquarters are in Atlanta.

Rams kick returner Tony Horne could be fined by the NFL for leaving a mandatory team press conference on Wednesday.

Around the league

According to a Washington Post report, Redskins officials are increasingly interested in obtaining San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, sources close to the front office said Friday. The Redskins' interest in trading for another prominent wide receiver, Joey Galloway, has cooled because club officials believe the Seattle Seahawks want too much.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has backed off a statement that he would like to see All-Pro cornerback Deion Sanders in a Dallas uniform for the rest of his career. "There are a lot of factors that will come into play on what Deion's future is with the Dallas Cowboys," Jones said. "I don't have a handle on that at this time. We are working this spring to come up with a solution."

Cris Carter of the Minnesota Vikings is the first recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, honoring the memory of the career rushing leader.

The Indianapolis Colts will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Mexico City in August as part of the league's American Bowl series.

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