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FINA'S PLAY MUST IMPROVE OR HE'LL BE GONE

Fast food for thought . . .

There's a good chance left tackle John Fina would have been part of the Buffalo Bills' veteran purge if the team had the cap space to eat his contract.

The new regime is hardly as enamored with Fina as the old regime, which rewarded the never-a-Pro Bowler with a deal that runs through 2006.

"There's no question (Fina has to play better)," President and General Manager Tom Donahoe said Tuesday. "John will be the first guy to tell you that. John's not satisfied with how he's played. But he's handled it like a veteran. He's stood up and taken blame for some things."

One of Donahoe's first moves upon joining the Bills was signing tackle Kris Farris, the former UCLA All-America who lost his first two NFL seasons to injury. This figured to be a season for Farris to reacclimate to football. Instead, he could be pushing Fina for the starting job.

"I think all people have to do is evaluate what we've done," Donahoe said. "We've not been afraid to make a change up to this point and we won't be afraid of that in the future. Our goal is to put the best football team we can on the field regardless of who the players might be."
The New Era Cap Co. of Derby is crowing on its Web site about "American Pride" after filling an order from the federal government for specialized caps following last week's attacks.

American Pride? New Era, which has exclusive rights to manufacture the official caps of Major League Baseball, has been embroiled in a long labor dispute that has the Major League Players Association seeking ways to show support for striking employees.

American Pride? Last year New Era gave away caps to some neighboring youth baseball leagues. They were made in Bangladesh.
That shoulder injury that put Bruce Smith on the sidelines during the preseason miraculously disappeared in time for the Washington Redskins' opener. Bruce should dispense with the annual charade and amend his contract to read: "I don't do training camp."
Ichiro Suzuki is the hands-down choice as American League rookie of the year, but the voting will be splintered in the NL. Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins leads the league with 43 steals in 47 attempts and has been the spark in the Philly lineup. Albert Pujols has diminished the effects of Mark McGwire's injury-ravaged season by leading St. Louis in batting average, homers and RBIs.

I like Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt, the former Olympian who started the year in the Houston bullpen. Oswalt, who left Tuesday's game against San Francisco after two innings with a groin strain, went into the contest 14-2 with a 2.50 ERA and a 6-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
Michigan State had four punts blocked -- and two of them returned for touchdowns -- in its opener. Michigan had a field-goal attempt blocked and returned for a TD in its opening loss to Washington. We're checking into reports that Ronnie Jones reigns as the state's director of special teams.
Is there a more dysfunctional team in pro sports than the Red Sox? Egocentric General Manager Dan Duquette on Monday suspended volatile outfielder Carl Everett, who Duquette had supported in an earlier bickering match with manager Jimy Williams, who subsequently was fired for -- as far as anyone can tell -- possessing far more baseball knowledge than the general manager. In Williams' absence, the Bosox have fallen hard from the wild-card race and Duquette, needing another prominent target on which to unleash his self-importance, has alienated staff ace Pedro Martinez by questioning an injury.

Strong safety Henry Jones, banished for his failure to "go along with the program," averaged more than 100 tackles his last five full seasons. Raion Hill, who presumably is going along with the program, is on pace for 32.
e-mail: rdicesare@buffnews.com

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