Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Once cut, O'Donnell returns to Tennessee

NFL notebook

The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Quarterback Neil O'Donnell returned to the Titans on Tuesday - four months after he was cut - giving Tennessee a veteran backup as insurance for Steve McNair.

O'Donnell, who had been let go by Tennessee in a salary-cap move, signed a two-year contract. He will be on the field today and Thursday when the Titans conclude their offseason workouts.

Terms of O'Donnell's deal were not released. He worked out the agreement himself with Titans general manager Floyd Reese after Tennessee cleared room under the salary cap for the quarterback last week by releasing middle linebacker Randall Godfrey.

O'Donnell credited Titans coach Jeff Fisher with helping him return.

"Jeff told me he was going to bring me back," he said. "He stayed with his word. He said, 'You do what you have to do. If you have to go look at other teams, you do that. Just keep me informed.' I kept him informed with cell phone (calls) wherever I was. It worked out well."

O'Donnell is entering his 14th NFL season and his fifth with Tennessee. He has started only seven games for the Titans, and he had only five passing attempts for 24 yards last season. But he proved his worth in December by filling in for an injured starter McNair five straight weeks in practice, a stretch that saw the Titans go undefeated.

"Your starter goes down, you can always have a guy who's been in there, and that's a good thing," McNair said. "Neil's been there. He's been there for me."

The Titans caught O'Donnell off guard in February when they released him as part of several moves to get under the NFL's salary cap before Feb. 28.

It wasn't an easy month for O'Donnell, because his sister, Rosemary, died Feb. 1 of cancer.

"Football took a back seat after all that," O'Donnell said. "When you go through tough times like that, it's hard. I got away, spent some time with the family. Once the weather broke up north, I really wanted to get back to playing football."

CARDINALS: Arizona backup fullback Dennis McKinley and three other men were arrested Tuesday as suspects in an investigation into an international drug ring.

Police say McKinley, whose contract was terminated by the Cardinals hours after his arrest, rented a warehouse where marijuana shipments from Mexico were stored. The four men were accused of buying marijuana that had been smuggled in from Mexico, repackaging it in Phoenix and then transporting it via tractor trailer to major cities, including New York, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland.

The investigation resulted in 34 indictments and 27 search warrants. Not all of the other suspects have been arrested, authorities said.

"We think we've got the conspiracy taken care of," Assistant Attorney General Don Conrad said.

McKinley, who was in jail Tuesday and couldn't be reached for comment, has appeared in 58 games for the Cardinals over four seasons. He has primarily played on special teams and as a reserve fullback since the Cardinals drafted him in 1999.

PANTHERS: Defensive tackle Brentson Buckner agreed to a four-year, $8.35 million contract extension. He had 47 tackles and five sacks and started 12 games last year, missing four because of a league-imposed suspension for taking a dietary supplement which contained a banned substance.

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