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NFL.com: Week 5 becomes reunion weekend


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Week 5 becomes reunion weekend


By Craig Ellenport

Special to NFL.com

Art Shell proves you can always go home

(Sept. 29, 2003) -- Six degrees of separation? In the NFL, it's more like one. With players and coaches so closely connected to more than one team, it's not hard to find interesting "reunion" games each week of the season.

That being said, Week 5 in the NFL is the mother of all reunions.

It's special for Cardinals running back Emmitt Smith, who will be suiting up in the visiting locker room at Texas Stadium for the first time after 13 legendary seasons with the Cowboys.

It's special for Lions head coach Steve Mariucci, who brings his new team to San Francisco to face his former team.

It's special for Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, who returns to Green Bay, where he led the Packers to two Super Bowls in the '90s. This isn't Holmgren's first trip back to Green Bay, but it's his first trip back with a team that he can brag about.

"It probably will be different this time," Holmgren admits. "I think that's a special place … It's a little bit like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park -- the classic places in a particular sport to play. Aside from that, I made a lot of friends there. Every time I go back there and play it will be special."

And Monday night will be special for Tony Dungy, who's in his second season as head coach of the Colts after six with the Buccaneers. Dungy, the most successful head coach in Bucs' history, makes his first trip to Tampa Bay as the visiting head coach.

After watching his former team win the Super Bowl a year ago, Dungy returns to Tampa Bay with one of the hottest teams in the NFL. His Colts are 4-0, fresh off a 55-21 shellacking of the Saints.

With these significant homecomings, the only surprise is that neither Bill Parcells nor Marty Schottenheimer -- both of whom are with their fourth NFL teams -- do not face any of their former teams this week.

Of course, Parcells' Cowboys have already defeated the Giants and Jets this season, with a Nov. 16 game at New England still to come. Schottenheimer's Chargers play division rival Kansas City twice, and they also have an Oct. 19 game at Schottenheimer's first head coaching stop, Cleveland.

Between Smith and the returning coaches, there are some other noteworthy "reunions" this week that may be overshadowed.

Bills LB Takeo Spikes has eyes set on facing Cincinnati for the first time.

Perhaps tops on that list would be the matchup of Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes against the team that originally drafted him, Cincinnati. The game is in Buffalo, but Spikes will be excited nonetheless.

"It's going to be a big game, a big emotional game for me." says Spikes, who spent his first five NFL seasons with the Bengals. "It's a game I have been keeping my eye on ever since I decided to sign with Buffalo and the schedule came out. It's something that will most definitely be in the back of my mind every day and pretty much every minute [this week]."

Spikes has always been known as a player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, so it's not surprising for him to be candid about his feelings toward this game. Other players are not as forthcoming.

Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, for example, is downplaying his game this week against the Saints -- even though he is a Louisiana native who spent the last four seasons on the New Orleans roster.

"I think it would be a whole lot different if I played in New Orleans," says Delhomme. "I was a backup, so I didn't really play. I can't look at it and think, 'I want to kill these guys because they let me go.'"

Delhomme didn't begin the season as the Carolina starter, either, but now he finds himself at the helm of a playoff contender -- another reason why he's focused more on his own team than on the opponent.

"We're 3-0," he says. "We'd love to stay undefeated. For myself, I'm just trying to get better week in and week out. I'm not going to try to put any added pressure on myself, because there isn't anything inside me that really says, 'Oh, I want to get back at these guys,' because they really never did anything bad to me."

Redskins linebacker Jeremiah Trotter played one game last year against his former team, the Eagles, and this week marks the first of two meetings he'll have against them this season. He admits to having animosity toward the Eagles, though his animosity isn't reserved only for them.

"Sure it's a game I look forward to," says Trotter, who was drafted by Philadelphia in 1998. "I look forward to all the NFC East games. I hate every team I play against, not just the teams in our division -- but they come first."

Trotter adds, "I learned a lot in Philly and I enjoyed playing there. But I'm a Redskin now and I bleed red. Literally."

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