Sports

Falcons sign former Jaguars' starter Leftwich

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons signed former Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich on Tuesday, giving the team immediate depth and a potential contender for the starting job.

"First of all, I'm a football player and the last couple of weeks have been tough on me," said Leftwich, who was cut the week before the season by the Jaguars. "I appreciate the opportunity and I look forward to doing whatever I can to help our team."

Leftwich's agent, Tom Condon, said the former first-round draft pick passed a physical, worked out for the team and signed a two-year, $7 million deal. The 27-year-old Leftwich is set to join the Falcons for Wednesday's practice.

The Falcons needed help. Harrington, who took over as the starter when Michael Vick was suspended by the NFL, has lost his first two starts with Atlanta and the offense has scored only 10 points.

Harrington's other backup is Chris Redman, who has not played in an NFL game since 2003.

• Under fire from injured retirees who say they were denied sufficient benefits, the head of the National Football League Players Association asked Congress on Tuesday for greater authority to approve disability claims.

Gene Upshaw, director of the players association, said the union currently is limited in what it can do for the scores of former players who are battered and broken from years of playing the violent sport.

At the same time, Upshaw and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said league pensions are improving.

It is the first time the union has asked Congress for help with the problem, which was the subject of a House hearing earlier this year.

Retired football players have been openly critical of the NFL and the players' union over the amount of money that older retirees get from a $1.1 billion fund set aside for disability and pensions.

• Kevin Everett could be transferred to a Houston hospital by this weekend to begin the next phase of the Buffalo Bills tight end's rehabilitation, a person close to the family told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"That's the plan that probably by the end of the week, if progress remains the same, he'll be transferred back to Houston," said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of Everett's status.

• AUTO RACING -- Kasey Kahne is the new beer man, picking up Budweiser as the primary sponsor for his No. 9 Dodge.

The sponsorship was announced at Gillett Evernham Motorspots, where Kahne entered the event on the famed Budweiser Clydesdales.

"Budweiser has a long and storied history with NASCAR and some of its most successful drivers. We're excited about Kasey's ability to add to that outstanding lineage," said Tony Ponturo, vice president, global media and sports marketing, Anheuser-Busch, Inc.

Bud became the most valuable sponsorship in NASCAR when it teamed with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2000. But Earnhardt is leaving DEI for Hendrick Motorsports at the end of this season, and he'll announce a new sponsor Wednesday in Dallas.

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