NFL briefs

Falcons’ cornerback back from suspension

Flowery Branch, Ga. Atlanta Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan is back after serving a four-game suspension for using steroids.

He knows his reputation has been tarnished.

“Excuses are the tools of incompetence,” he said. “That’s not me. That’s not my character. I’m man enough to admit my mistakes. You’ve got to live and learn.”

The 30-year-old Buchanan missed more games during his suspension than in his previous nine seasons in the league. He worked with a private trainer to stay in shape and likely will be back in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers.

“It feels good to be back, smell the smell,” Buchanan said.

Searcy out of action

Miami Pro Bowl offensive lineman Leon Searcy underwent surgery Thursday to repair a torn right triceps tendon and will not play this year.

The 32-year-old Searcy was competing for a starting job with the Miami Dolphins when he got hurt Aug. 29. He missed the 2000 season with a torn right quadriceps and missed the 2001 season with a torn left triceps tendon.

Niners’ Owens fined $5,000 by league

Santa Clara, Calif. Terrell Owens was fined $5,000 Thursday by the NFL for an untucked shirttail, not for his autograph TD celebration.

Owens wasn’t punished for pulling a pen from his sock to sign the football after a touchdown catch in the San Francisco 49ers’ 28-21 victory over Seattle on Monday night. Instead, the league sent him a letter containing a much more common, minor fine for equipment violations.

Owens called it “nonsense … a very nit-picky thing.”

After beating cornerback Shawn Springs for the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, Owens produced a pen, signed the football and presented it to his financial adviser in the front row.

Vick listed as ‘probable’

Flowery Branch, Ga. Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves upgraded Michael Vick from questionable to probable after the quarterback practiced without pain on Thursday.

Vick, who suffered a sprain in his right, non-throwing shoulder in an Oct. 6 loss to Tampa Bay, missed last week’s 17-10 win at New York.

“It feels great,” Vick said, “I did everything I needed to do.”

Pace continues rehab from injury

St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace, the first overall pick of the 1997 draft, is getting over a leg injury and wasn’t supposed to return until Nov. 3.

But backup Grant Williams is out for the season with a broken leg, so the team needs Pace now. After playing the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, the Rams have a bye, so Pace would have two weeks to continue his own recovery. Pace wants to be available for emergency duty on what could be a makeshift alignment.

Woodson’s status upgraded to probable

Alameda, Calif. Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson was upgraded to probable Thursday for the Raiders’ upcoming game against San Diego.

Woodson, a four-time Pro Bowler, hasn’t played or practiced with the Raiders since breaking his shoulder in the second quarter of Oakland’s win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 15.

But Woodson has been working out on his own for several days, and showed enough progress for the Raiders to upgrade him from doubtful for Sunday’s game.