A day after saying he felt Mike Nolan was trying to undermine him in the San Francisco 49ers' locker room, quarterback Alex Smith met with Nolan yesterday and issued a statement affirming his relationship with his coach and the 49ers.

"I can see how an article like this can be very damaging, but I know my relationships with Coach Nolan and my teammates are stronger than that," Smith said in the statement.

"I never intended this to be a distraction for the team or their preparation for the upcoming game."

The team announced that Smith will undergo surgery on his right shoulder, ending a disappointing season for San Francisco's former No. 1 overall draft pick.


Defensive end Aaron Smith will be lost to Pittsburgh for the rest of the season with a torn biceps suffered during a 21-point loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, the team said.


Rex Grossman said he wants to be where he can compete for a starting job. "I don't have any answers as far as my future," the Chicago quarterback said. "I'm just going along for the ride, and we'll see what my options are at the end of the year."


Linebacker Nick Barnett pleaded not guilty to two charges of disorderly conduct stemming from a confrontation outside a nightclub in suburban Green Bay.

Barnett, a five-year starter, was arrested early June 17 outside an Appleton, Wis., nightspot after a woman accused him of pushing her during an argument.

The club's owner has said that the woman threw a drink on Barnett before he allegedly shoved her and was arrested.

Also, the team placed defensive tackle Johnny Jolly on injured reserve with an unspecified shoulder injury.

Bucs. Reserve tight end Jerramy Stevens was suspended without pay for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He will miss Tampa Bay's game against Atlanta on Sunday. Stevens also was fined an additional game check.

The tight end, who signed with the Buccaneers in April after being released by Seattle, was convicted in September of driving under the influence of alcohol in Scottsdale, Ariz.


Mike Ditka will dissolve his Hall of Fame assistance trust fund in the wake of a report that the charity had given only a small amount of money to needy former NFL players.

USA Today reported last week that Ditka's fund had collected $1.3 million since it was formed in 2004 but netted only about $315,000 after expenses and distributed just $57,000 to former players.

Ditka disputed part of the report, saying the trust has given away $159,000.

Ditka said the fund's balance of more than $600,000 would be divided equally between Misericordia, a residential facility for developmentally disabled youth, and Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, another fund that helps former professional football players in need.

The NFL has awarded a $113,000 grant to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which played a role in Bills tight end Kevin Everett's recovery from a serious spinal-cord injury.

The Miami Project, the world's largest spinal cord injury research center, will use the grant money to further its cutting-edge research into hypothermic therapy, spokesman Scott Roy said.


After Michael Vick was sentenced to nearly two years in prison Monday, two of his former Atlanta Falcons teammates sent messages to the disgraced quarterback in Monday night's 34-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who played with Vick at Virginia Tech and in Atlanta, ran onto the field holding up a poster of Vick and played the game with "MV7" written on the shade under both eyes.

Late in the first quarter, receiver Roddy White pulled up his jersey after hauling in a 33-yard touchdown pass from Chris Redman, revealing a black shirt with the words "Free Mike Vick" in white letters.

"That was homemade," White said. "The team misses him, and we really need him this season."