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TAGLIABUE MAY CUT WILD CARDS

Say goodbye to the NFL's wild-card weekend.

Barring an unforeseen development, the NFL is expected to announce Tuesday that Week Two will be played Jan. 5 and 6, which was to be the wild-card weekend.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was to continue to consider the matter today as he speaks with various owners and members of the competition committee, but he's believed to be leaning heavily toward keeping a 16-game schedule.

That would eliminate two wild-card teams in each conference, but it would maintain the integrity of a 16-game season and, in a revenue-related issue, it would allow every team to have eight home games.

Tagliabue had announced Thursday that Week Two had been canceled.

Football takes a break

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The temperature was a pleasant 72 and the sky over Giants Stadium was cloudless -- unless you looked 10 miles southeast, where white smoke from the rubble of the World Trade Center still hung in the air.

A car with an American flag on one side and a big blue Giants helmet decal on the other, slowed, then went by the "Entrance closed" sign at the ramp off the New Jersey Turnpike. Normally, scalpers line up on game days to barter with fans in the incoming cars.

And the dozens of empty parking lots proclaimed it all: "No Game Today."

"They were right to call off the games," said Walter Mancini, a yellow-jacketed guard stationed at the gate to the players' entrance. "Look at that cloud. That tells you they were right."

That was the scene across the NFL on Sunday. Parking lots were empty, as were nearby hotels and restaurants where fans normally partied before the games. Only at Adelphia Coliseum in Tennessee was there activity: a wedding in an otherwise empty parking lot.

No sounds, no sights, no smells.

In Indianapolis, fans who drove to the RCA Dome stuffed $10 bills into jars held by Colts players and cheerleaders. The money will go toward the relief effort.

There were two poignant scenes. At one Giants Stadium entrance, six cars sat scattered in what is a weekday park-and-ride lot where buses pick up commuters and take them to New York City. They had been there since Tuesday morning. The drivers had never returned.

And in Orchard Park, five boys, ages 10 to 16, tossed a football outside Ralph Wilson Stadium. They did it to keep their minds at ease.

"My dad's going to war, and we're scared," said Ryan Cooper, whose father is among the tens of thousands of military reservists being called up. "I'm afraid that one of these days someone's going to come home and say that your dad just died in the war."

"We just wanted to get it off our minds," said Kevin Hughes, whose uncle is also in the reserves. "We're worried, in case they get hurt or we never see them again."

If games had been played, one big story would have been Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith trying to pass former Lions running back Barry Sanders and move into second place on the NFL's all-time rushing list. He needs just 64 yards, and he could have got them in Sanders' old backyard, the Pontiac Silverdome.

Instead, Smith, like millions of people across the country, was at church with his family.

Smith prayed for the victims and their families, and he took time out to celebrate the true heroes and role models of this country -- the firefighters, doctors, police officers and rescue workers in New York and Washington.

"This makes you appreciate family more," Smith said. "It makes you hug your kids tighter. . . . People still can't get into their house. People are still looking for loved ones. It's all hard to fathom. I don't want to do anything except go to church. I just don't have the desire to be out on the field."

In Tennessee, the show was a wedding instead of Bengals vs. Titans. The bride, Lucinda Poole, wore a white Titans jersey. The groom, Randy Wilmore, wore a blue one.

They planned to exchange vows in the parking lot adjacent to the stadium amid family, friends and hundreds of fellow tailgaters.

This was far more subdued.

An American flag replaced the Titans flag that usually flies from the couple's SUV. Passersby were invited to drink champagne and to eat wedding cake.

At least one team went to work Sunday, the Miami Dolphins. But instead of playing the Bills, they worked out at their practice facility, about five miles from Pro Player Stadium.

"Your body gets used to playing on Sunday," tight end Hunter Goodwin said. "I woke up at 6:30 this morning worrying about what time I had to get to the stadium."

He'll have to wait a week.

Around the league

The coaches for the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers had agreed to practice against each other later this week, but the plan was scrapped when players objected. Each team has an open date next weekend, meaning a 21-day break.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Tim Bowens will not play next Sunday against Oakland because of a knee injury.

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