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NFL: One underdog stands behind another

Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. ó Charley Johnson, Jim Hart, Neil Lomax, Jake Plummer, Bobby Joe Conrad, Sonny Randle, Larry Wilson, Jerry Stovall, Pat Fischer, Conrad Dobler, Dan Dierdorf, Terry Metcalf.
Joe Maddon was just getting started naming some of his favorite Cardinals of all time. The Tampa Bay Rays manager, who has a framed “No. 70” Arizona jersey hanging on the wall of his office, is ecstatic the team he’s rooted for since 1963 is in the Super Bowl.
The appearance is especially sweet coming three months after he led the Rays’ improbable run to the World Series, where the AL champions lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I was a sick Cardinals football fan,” said Maddon, a Hazelton, Pa., native who remembers the day he devoted himself to the Big Red as well as the baseball Cardinals and NBA’s Hawks, then located in St. Louis.He and his father were leaving a White Sox-Yankees game in New York and stopped at a concession stand to purchase a hat. Maddon selected a navy blue Cardinals cap with a red insignia.
“At that moment I became a die-hard St. Louis fan,” Maddon said. “It was simple as that.”
The Cardinals shipped the prized jersey that hangs on Maddon’s wall shortly after the manager was hired by Tampa Bay and revealed he had been a Cardinals fan for much of his life.
So what’s more surprising, the Rays reaching the World Series or Arizona being in the NFL title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers?
“I’d say it’s even more improbable that they did because people had recently talked about us getting to the point of being in the playoffs in the next couple of years,” Maddon said. “I’d say to some extent the Cardinals are mentioned that way. But for them to get to the Super Bowl, I don’t think that was really on anybody’s radar screen.”
RAVENS
OWINGS MILLS, Md. ó Baltimore promoted Greg Mattison to defensive coordinator, a move designed to maintain a sense of continuity on a unit that excelled under the departed Rex Ryan.
Although the 59-year-old Mattison has only one year of NFL experience, he was defensive coordinator at Michigan, Notre Dame and Florida.
RAMS
ST. LOUIS ó New coach Steve Spagnuolo hired three coaches for his staff, including Dick Curl as his assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach. Spagnuolo also hired Paul Ferraro as a defensive assistant and Frank Leonard as an offensive assistant.
BROWNS
BEREA, Ohio ó George Kokinis took over as Cleveland’s new general manager.
Bob Kain, who held the title “vice chairman” and served as an advisor to owner Randy Lerner, has left the team.
Since concluding a 4-12 season, the Browns have fired coach Romeo Crennel, GM Phil Savage and player personnel director T.J. McCreight. Last week, the Browns laid off 15 people from their support staff.
REDSKINS
ASHBURN, Va. ó The Washington Redskins made a second round of layoffs Monday, dismissing six employees in the stadium ticket office and four seasonal employees.
The six laid off at the stadium worked in general admission sales. The four seasonal employees worked at the Redskins Park training facility.
Earlier this month, the Redskins laid off more than 20 people, mostly in the marketing, legal and technology departments. Director of player development John Jefferson and salary cap analyst Jimmy Halsell were also let go.COWBOYS
DALLAS ó Terrell Owens will star in his own show on VH1 this summer, giving fans a look into his life off the field.
VH1 announced Monday that the series takes place in the offseason, and T.O.’s best friends and publicists ó Monique Jackson and Kita Williams ó will help him re-examine his personal life. The two will work as “matchmakers and therapists” for Owens.VICK
RICHMOND, Va. ó Imprisoned NFL star Michael Vick is suing a former financial adviser for at least $2 million.
Vick claims Mary Wong misrepresented herself to gain control of his finances, which she then misused. He’s accusing Wong of fraud, breach of contract, negligence and other offenses.
STRINGER
COLUMBUS, Ohio ó The widow of former Minnesota Vikings lineman Korey Stringer reached a settlement with the NFL over his heatstroke death during training camp in 2001.
Under an agreement with Kelci Stringer, the NFL will support her efforts to create a heat illness prevention program. No other terms of the settlement were released.
ELLER
MINNEAPOLIS ó Former Vikings great Carl Eller was convicted of assaulting an officer who tried to arrest him after he swerved and nearly struck a squad car in April.
OBIT
BATON ROUGE, La. ó Former NFL lineman Jerry Fowler died of complications from surgery. He was 68.
Fowler played in four games for the Houston Oilers in 1964 before moving on to politics.

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