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DITKA’S BIG MOUTH HURTS BEARS, HELPS BUCCANEERS

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Bears Coach Mike Ditka should get some of the credit for his team's upset loss to Tampa Bay.

It seems that after Tampa Bay lost to Minnesota the week before, Bucs quarterback Vinny Testaverde promised his team "would come back and win next week."The irascible Ditka took exception to this Joe Namath-like declaration, and said of Testaverde: "I don't know what encouraged him after the way he threw the ball up in Minnesota." Then, making reference to Testaverde's color blindness, Ditka said: "It looked like he was color blind and the color was green, because he kept throwing at the carpet."

Apparently Testaverde didn't have a serious problem discerning the Bucs' jerseys from the Bears' jerseys, or from the carpet, because he completed 22-of-36 passes for 269 yards as Tampa Bay stunned Chicago, 42-35. Tampa Bay's previous high-point total this season was 23.

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BUCK ACCUSED: Cincinnati's Jason Buck pleaded not guilty for the fourth-quarter hit that took Pittsburgh quarterback Bubby Brister out of Sunday's game.

Buck was hit with a 15-yard personal foul penalty for what the officials deemed was a late hit when he rolled over Brister's leg. But Buck says he was blocked into Brister.

"All that happened is that he (Pittsburgh tackle John Jackson) grabbed me by the shoulder and yanked me down. I got spun out and I hit him (Brister) with my back. I was out of control on that. I've never been involved in a cheap shot in my life. I respect Bubby Brister and I feel terrible for him."

Bengals' Coach Sam Wyche said television replays showed the hit was unavoidable. "It wasn't a cheap shot by Jason Buck and it wasn't even a penalty," Wyche said.