Sports

No salary cap would hurt 212 players

WASHINGTON - Miles Austin of the Cowboys, Brandon Marshall of the Broncos and six other Pro Bowl picks are among more than 200 NFL players who would lose their status as unrestricted free agents this offseason if the league and its union cannot agree on a new labor contract.

According to a list obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, there are 212 players who would be considered restricted free agents instead of unrestricted if there is no salary cap in 2010.

Pro Bowl linebackers Elvis Dumervil of the Broncos and DeMeco Ryans of the Texans are in the group of potentially affected players. So are dozens of other starters from across the NFL, including quarterbacks Kyle Orton of the Broncos and Jason Campbell of the Redskins.

In an uncapped year, a player would need at least six years in the NFL, up from the current minimum of four years in the league, to be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team.

The other players announced Tuesday as selections for this season's Pro Bowl who could find themselves missing out on a chance to cash in this offseason are Packers safety Nick Collins, Patriots guard Logan Mankins, Saints guard Jahri Evans and Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver.

A restricted free agent's old club gets a chance to offer the player a one-year contract at different levels of pay which determine what level of draft-choice compensation the old club would receive for losing the player. And the old club has the right to match any offer another club makes to a restricted free agent.

Colts' owner Irsay backs decision to pull starters. Colts owner Jim Irsay believes his team did the right thing by pulling their starters in Sunday's game against the New York Jets. Though he acknowledged it was hard to watch the undefeated season slip away in the final 20 minutes Sunday, Irsay said coach Jim Caldwell and team president Bill Polian made a decision that was "best for the team." Irsay acknowledged he also approved the decision, which has drawn criticism from Colts fans.

Belichick will not divulge plans for Pats. New England coach Bill Belichick remains coy about whether Tom Brady and other Patriots stars will start Sunday against the Houston Texans. On a conference call, Belichick would not directly answer the question he has faced about how much playing time his starters will get with their playoff spot secure. When asked if they would start, Belichick laughed before saying "I would expect they'd be there" and asking if his stars were on a reporter's fantasy football team.

Woodley predicts Patriots, Bengals will lay down. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley predicts the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals will "lay down" for their games on Sunday because they do not want the Super Bowl champion Steelers in the playoffs. The Steelers would make it in if they beat Miami, the Patriots defeat Houston, and the Bengals beat the New York Jets.

49ers' Bruce likely to play at St. Louis. Isaac Bruce's final NFL game might be back in the very place where he spent his most productive years. Mike Singletary said the 37-year-old Bruce's 49ers wide receiver mates approached the coach to say they wanted the 16th-year veteran to play Sunday at St. Louis.

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