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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan • 23

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Detroit, Michigan
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NFL BASEBALL TUESDAY, JAN. 25. 2005 3D DETROIT FREE PRESS WWW.FREEP.COM Don't talk of dynasty until Pats beat Eagles Tigers' brass punts tour to see Ordonez hold workout Their run would be a rarity these days CURT SYLVESTER NIX ByGENEGUIDI free press sports writer As tempting as it might be, this is not the time to bring up the D-word. Not now. Not yet.

We may not GENE J. PUSKARMssociated Press Bill Belichick holds the AFC championship trophy, but he really wants the Lombardi. SHARP I It's sign Ordonez or bust From Page ID failed overtures in the past two months, they may have an advantage over other suitors in this courtship. That's because they have no choice but to make lavish promises that Ordonez's knees might not keep. The Tigers have to gamble, same as they did with Rodriguez about this time last year.

If it requires the same contractual creativitya maximum four years and $40 million -which snagged Pudge, they should do it without the slightest flinch. There's nothing exciting or inspiring about going to Lakeland next month with basically the same names that lost 90 games. Planting Ordonez in the heart of the lineup not only boosts spirits, it also diverts attention from a young core that must build upon its 2004 improvement for this team to honestly believe it could contend for the Central Division title 2006. But, more important, if you can't secure a medical risk like Ordonez with more guaranteed years and money than anybody else, then what does that still say about the league perception of the Tigers? "I'm not here because of league perception," Percival said Monday. "I'm not here because of the money.

I'm here because I believe we can win right now. I've committed myself to the next two years, and I'm planning on winning in both of those years. If we had somebody else, great, but the faces that were here when I signed haven't changed, so why should my feelings change about our chances?" There are a number of readily available explanations for why nobody wants to come to Detroit the city, the weather, the ballpark, the endless stretch of losing but don't underestimate how the lack of an internally grown nucleus hinders the Tigers' sales pitch. "The key to our future is going to be how guys like (Jeremy) Bonderman, (Omar) Infante and (Brandon) Inge build upon the grpwth they had last season," Dmitri Young said. "Your best players have to be guys that you've developed yourself.

That sends as strong a message to free agents as money or golf, because you start winning when the young guys begin to take charge." It's vital that young arms in the minors, like former No. 1 pick Kyle Sleeth and Joel Zu-maya, position themselves for consideration on the major league roster in 2006. Rut until r-rv-i unrrJlii-irra omoivTii Ti-rvi SUPER BOWL COUNTDOWN Matchup: Philadelphia (15-3) vs. New England (16-2). When: 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 6. Where: Jacksonville, Fla. TV: Fox (Channel 2 in Detroit). Line: New England by 7.

The Tigers have struck out on numerous free agents this off-season, but they keep swinging. President and general manager Dave Dom-browski and manager Alan Trammell skipped the first day of the annual winter caravan Monday to fly to Miami where free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez is working out. One report had owner Mike Hitch joining the Detroit party. Ordonez, coming off knee surgery that shortened his 2004 season with the White Sox, is among the last notable free agents on the market. If healthy, he could be a middle-of-the-lineup force that would enhance the Tigers' offense.

Asked if the Tigers had studied Ordonez's medical records, one team official said Monday: "All I can say is that we're doing our homework on the matter; we'll see where it goes from here." Signing Ordonez wouldn't necessarily have the same impact as Ivan Rodriguez's signing last winter, but it would help ease the disappointment of missing out on such free agents as Carl Pavano, Troy Glaus, Steve Finley, Adrian Beltre, Jeff Kent and Edgar Renteria. "There's a long way to go between now and Opening Day when you're talking about adding and subtracting players," pitcher Nate Robertson said, "and I don't feel like we're done." Unlike Rodriguez last year, Ordonez, who turns 31 on Friday, has a number of teams interested in signing him. Along with the Tigers, the Mets, Orioles and Cubs are said to be among his potential suitors. Last winter, the Tigers didn't have a lot of competition for Rodriguez, who was seeking a four-year, $40-million contract that caused other teams to back off. What the Tigers had to do to land the All-Star catcher was craft a deal that satisfied his asking price while protecting the team from a recurrence of back trouble in the second half of the contract.

There could be similar protection written into any contract for Ordonez. Before committing serious money, teams understandably want assurances that Ordonez's knee problems are behind him. He was supposed to work out for clubs at the winter meetings in December but didn't, which raised a red flag even though his agent, Scott Boras, said the rightfielder would be ready KIRTHMON DOZIERtetroit Free Press Dmitri Young signs autographs for students at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. The Tigers' two-day tour has swings through western Michigan and metro Detroit. for the 2005 season.

Before being limited to 52 games and 202 at-bats last season, Ordonez was a hitting machine. He had five straight .300 seasons with power, averaging 32 home runs and 118 RBIs during that span. One of the Tigers' primary goals this winter was to find a power-hitting run producer; a healthy Ordonez fits that description. "A guy like Ordonez is not just a hitter," Robertson said, "he's a clutch hitter who can put up 25 to 30 homers for you." The other high-profile free agent still on the market, first baseman Carlos Delgado, could be a key to the Tigers' chances of signing Ordonez. The free-spending Mets are interested in Delgado, but if they don't get him, their Plan includes Ordonez.

The Orioles, who like the Tigers have had a quiet off-season, also apparently have money to spend, and it wouldn't be a surprise if they joined the serious bidding for Ordonez. Boras hasn't said what kind of contract his client is seeking, but Ordonez, who made $14 million in 2004, indicated that it could be a multi-year deal or that he could sign for one year to show everyone healthy and then seek a long-term contract. Either way, Tigers players wouldn't mind seeing Ordonez in a Detroit uniform this year. "He would help us, no question," outfielder Rondell White said. Contact GENE GUIDI at 313-222-2378 or lUUl Ul 11,11 IQI 111 llliO CUICI tL, i71U Ex-Tiger Clark signs with Arizona AROUND THE HORN FREE PRESS NEWS SERVICES bring it up at all.

The New England Patriots have one piece of unfinished business with the Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 6 at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. If the Patriots win Super Bowl XXXIX, maybe then we can start thinking about them as one of those vanishing commodities in the NFL a dynasty. Right now they're on the verge, with two Super Bowl titles in the past three years. That, in itself, is quite an accomplishment.

The Denver Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, and the Dallas Cowboys won three of four with their Emmitt Smith-Troy Aik-man-Michael Irvin teams of the early 1990s. But it's no easy task stringing together multiple Super Bowl titles in the age of free agency, where players often seem more attracted by big contracts than the possibility of keeping a team together for a niche in the record book. The 1996 Green Bay Packers were a pretty good team, but they couldn't do it. They made it to back-to-back Super Bowls but didn't win the second time. The 1999 St.

Louis Rams locked as if they had it figured out when Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce roared to victory in Super Bowl XXXTV, but they got knocked out in the first round of playoffs the next year and were beaten by who else? the Patriots, when they went back the following year. In the years in between, the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have soared to the top, then vanished from the Super Bowl scene. What the Patriots have done has been impressive a 20-17 victory over St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI three years ago, a 32-29 victory over Carolina last year and an NFL-record 21-game winning streak along the way. But they have their work cut out for them when they get to Jacksonville.

The NFC didn't get a lot of respect this year. By most accounts and the interconference records the AFC had the superior talent, teams and coaching. Some in the business thought the Eagles would have been no better than the third- or fourth-best team in the AFC. None of the speculation matters now. The season has come down to a winner-take-all, one-game match.

The Patriots. Or the Eagles. One intercepted pass, one lost fumble, one blown tackle. All it takes in a game of this high intensity is one little mistake to start even the best of teams down the slippery slope to defeat. After three years of bitter disappointment in the NFC championship game, the Eagles finally made it over the top with their 27-10 victory Sunday against Atlanta, and they have nothing to lose.

That's one theory. Defensively, they can match the Patriots' toughness. And their defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is regarded as highly as the Patriots' Romeo Crennel when it comes to putting together effective schemes against even the best offenses. Offensively, the Eagles depend on quarterback Donovan McNabb to make things happen, just as the Patriots depend on Tom Brady. Assuming wide receiver Ter-.

rell Owens doesn't get clearance browski has no alternative but to generate excitement through Mike Hitch's checkbook. "It's disappointing that we haven't signed more guys," Percival added, "but it's not frustrating because Dave and Mr. Hitch have done all that you can ask them to do. They tried hard. They threw themselves into the mix.

They put offers on the table, but you can't force guys to sign. It took me 10 minutes to do my contract." Many observers lauded the in Rodriguez's deal, basically making it only a two-year commitment if the fears of Pudge's body breaking down come to fruition. The Tigers could protect themselves because there weren't any other serious contenders for Pudge. That's not the case with Ordonez. But it is believed that most teams' interest is limited to no more than two years.

The Tigers should step up and guarantee four years. Nothing is left in the cookie jar but trading stamps, but that's not stopping the New York Mets from considering Ordonez, especially should they not land Carlos Delgado. If there were no medical and durability concerns, Ordonez is an upper-tier free agent this off-season with his 30-homer, consistency. Without a surgically repaired left knee, Ordonez already would have an $80-million contract. But, like Pudge, Ordonez waits for somebody to roll the dice.

Paging Mr. Dombrowski. Contact DREW SHARP at 313-223-4055 or dsharprtfrcepress.com. Penny avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $5.1 -million, one-year contract. Penny was 1 -2 with a 3.09 ERA In 1 Winnings before he was sidelined Aug.

9 due to a nerve problem in his pitching arm. Penny, acquired from Florida, was 8-8 with a 3.15 ERA in 131 'A innings with the Marlins. N.Y. Mets: One day after saying the Mets were out, Carlos Delgado's agent said they were back in. David Sloane, who represents the free-agent first baseman, resumed talks with New York and said the Mets, Marlins and Orioles remained in contention to sign Delgado.

Pittsburgh: Outfielder Ben Grieve agreed to a minor league contract with the Pirates, who will give the 1998 American League rookie of the year with Oakland a shot at making the team. Grieve, 28, would get a $500,000, one-year contract if he makes the major league roster. General manager Dave Littlefield has been seeking an extra power bat and likes Grieve's proven ability to get on base and drive in runs. Grieve hit .279 with 27 homers and 1 04 RBis with the A in 2000. Utili-tyman Rob Mackowiak reached agreement on a $1 contract that avoided arbitration and more than quadrupled his $335,000 salary of last season.

Tampa Bay: Outfielder Chris Singleton agreed to a minor league contract. Singleton has a .273 career batting average with 118 doubles and 276 RBIs in five seasons with Baltimore, Oakland and the Chicago White Sox. said. Clark has played 10 seasons in the majors, the first seven with the Tigers, where he was an All-Star in 2001. The switch-hitter, a career .264 hitter with 191 home runs, realized after a poor 2002 season with the Boston Red Sox that he would have to accept a role as a part-time player.

Chicago White Sox: Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi agreed to a two-year contract. Iguchi will get between $2 million and $2.5 million per season, and trie team will have an option tor a third year. Iguchi, 30, batted .333 with 24 homers and 89 RBIs with the Daiei Hawks. Cincinnati: Shortstop Rich Aurilia agreed to a minor league contract. Aurilia.

33, hit .241 with four homers and 28 RBIs last season for Seattle, before being designated for assignment and dealt to San Diego. He batted .254 with two homers and 16 RBIs tor the Padres. Cleveland: Right-hander Jake West-brook agreed to a two-year contract and avoided salary arbitration. Westbrook, 27, began 2004 as the Indians' long reliever before folning the rotation. He was 14-9 with a 3.38 ERA in 30 starts.

LOS Angeles: Right-hander Brad to play on the leg with a broken bone suffered barely six weeks ago, McNabb and Brady make plays with good but certainly not world-class running backs and receivers. The thing that makes the Patriots and Eagles what they are is the team concept their coaches Bill Belichick and Andy Reid demand. Belichick, in particular, demands individual sacrifice for the common good in every phase of the game. Steve Szabo, the Buffalo Bills' defensive backs coach and a former Belichick assistant, was quoted recently regarding the Patriots' team concept. "You don't see any problems with players there, understand?" Szabo said.

"He won't have any. If there is one, he'll get rid of it, and players know that. But he's not a tyrant. He delegates authority. He's not on an ego trip." The Patriots are seven-point favorites in Super Bowl XXXK, but it's hard to see either team suffering a blowout, as occasionally happens in these affairs.

Belichick was asked after the 41-27 victory over Pittsburgh about the significance of making it to the Super Bowl three times in four years. "It's tough but very gratifying," he said. "This team has worked hard. These players, they come to work every day ready to work. We demand a lot of them.

They lay it on the line. "There's a lot of blood and sweat that's put out there, and I'm happy they have this kind of achievement to show for it. I've never been around a harder-working group of guys." One more victory and perhaps we can consider tjie D-word. Perhaps then we can start thinking about the Patriots with some of the other multiple winners in the 39 years of Super Bowl history- The Green Bay Packers won three of the last five NFL championship games before the NFL and AFL merged, and won the first two Super Bowls in the 1960s. The Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years in the 1970s.

The San Francisco 49ers won four Super Bowls in nine years during the 1980s, including back-to-back titles in the 1988-89 seasons. The Cowboys won two in a row with their 1992 and '93 teams, then came back to make it three of four with their 1995 team. And if the Eagles win? We put the D-word back on the shelf until another worthy candidate comqs along. Contact CURT SYLVESTER at 313-222-2621 orsylvesterfreepress.com. PHOENIX Free agent Tony Clark agreed Monday to a $750,000, one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks and said he is content to be the backup to young Chad Tracy at first base.

Clark, 32, played 106 games for the New York Yankees last season, hitting .221 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs. The season included Clark's first career three-homer game, at Toronto on Aug. 28. Clark, who lives with his wife and three children in the north Phoenix suburb of Glen-dale and attended the University of Arizona, said the chance to play at home was a. major reason he chose Arizona.

"From the time the mondbacks came into existence, I was already here hoping that an opportunity would come at some point," Clark TE Lewis out for Eagles in Super Bowl; T.O. uncertain NFL ROUNDUP FRFl PRESS NEWS SERVICES the Dolphins hired Nick Saban as head coach, and Bates decided to leave. N.Y. Jets: Quarterback Chad Pennington wiH have surgery to repair an injured rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Pennington was hurt against Buffalo on Nov 7 and played the final six games with the injury, which the team initially said was a strain.

An MRI exam last week showed the extent of the damage. St Louis: Former Lions defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer was named defensive backs coach. Schottenheimer, 55, has coached in the NFL for 1 8 seasons He was defensive coordinator tor the Chiefs In 1999 and 2002, the Redskins in 2001 and the Lions in 2002-03. He coached DBs tor the Packers this season. His brother, Marty, is head coach of the Chargers.

Tampa Bay: Less than a week after resigning as offensive coordinator of the Jets, Paul Hackett was hired as quarterbacks coach. Hackett left the Jets last Wednesday, sideline." Lewis' injury, called a Lis Franc-sprain, is more common in automobile accidents and equestrian sports. Second-year pro L. J. Smith will take Iewis' spot in the starting lineup against New England.

Mike Bartrum, also the long snapper, is the only other tight end on the roster. Reid said the team will try to add a tight end this week. Lewis had 29 catches for 267 yards and three TDs this season. Green Bay: Jim Bates was hired as defensive coordinator. Bates spent 414 years as Miami's defensive coordinator before taking over as interim coach last year when Dave Wann-stedt resigned at mldseason.

After the season, er Terrell Owens' status is unknown. Owens has been sidelined with an ankle injury since Dec. 19. Coach Andy Reid said Monday that Owens has made "great progress" and will try to run on the ankle this week. Lewis, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, will have surgery Wednesday.

He suffered the injury on his second touchdown, a two-yard catch that sealed the win. "He was crushed," Reid said. "You sure don't like to see that happen to a veteran player that waited his whole career to get to this thing. He'll survive through it. He'll be down there supporting us, doing everything he can from the PHILADELPHIA The Philadelphia Eagles' thin receiving corps has lost another key member, and whether its star makes it back for the Super Bowl is still uncertain.

Tight end Chad Lewis, who caught two touchdown passes in Philadelphia's 27-10 victory over Atlanta in Sunday's NFC championship game, will miss the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 because of a foot injury. Meanwhile, All-Pro wide receiv 2005 MERCURY SABLE LS RED CARPET LEASE FOR RETURNING ADZ FORD EMPLOYEES, RETIREES AND ELIGIBLE FAMILY MEMBERS. DOWN PAYMENT I 24 MONTHS i "V-. 794 CASH DUE AT SIGNING After 16,500 cash back including $1,000 Ford Credit, Owner Loyalty and S500 Renewal Cash SECURITY DEPOSIT WAIVED.

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