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Philly's Andy Reid and New England's Bill Belichick: Best friends for life

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Eagles coach Andy Reid and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are the NFL's coaching version of "best friends forever."

"We knew each other as assistant coaches and then really when he became the head coach at New England, I came here as the head coach and we developed a close relationship," Reid said.

Their relationship grew stronger through ESPN commentator Chris Berman.

"He talks to both of us, so it feels like setting up your best friend on a double date," Reid said.

The two coaches will face each other when Philadelphia (4-6) hosts New England (7-3) on Sunday. Belichick is 3-0 against Reid, including a 24-21 win in the 2005 Super Bowl.

Reid and Belichick are the longest-tenured coaches in the league. Reid joined the Eagles in 1999 and Belichick went to New England a year later. They are two of the most successful coaches around.

Reid has led Philadelphia to nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. Belichick has won three Super Bowls.

They have similar personalities, showing a different side to their players than the media. One more thing they have in common is dedication to their families.

"I think we both love football," Reid said. "We love the game. We're both put in a position where we're responsible for personnel decisions, so we both talk about that. That's kind of where we go. Bill is a big family guy. I know he's got a number of kids and I've got a number of kids, so we talk about the kids."

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BENGALS FANS STILL NOT SOLD: The Bengals game Sunday against intrastate rival Cleveland will be blacked out on local television, an indication that Cincinnati's surprising success hasn't won back its fans.

The Bengals have sold out only one regular-season home game this year — against Pittsburgh, which brought thousands of fans to Paul Brown Stadium. Interest was down after the Bengals went 4-12 last season, the 18th time in the last 20 years they failed to reach the playoffs.

At 6-4, they're in the thick of playoff contention, but still unable to fill their stadium.

Surprising?

"Not really," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "Even the Pittsburgh game — I think we only sold out because how many daggone Pittsburgh fans came? So we want the people here that want to watch us play and want to root us on. That's all that matters. It doesn't matter how many it is."

Hasn't been many. The Bengals drew only 41,142 for a win over Buffalo on Oct. 2, the smallest crowd for a regular-season game in the stadium's 12-year history. It seats 65,500.

The Bengals have sold out only two of their last nine home games, both against Pittsburgh. The rest of the home schedule features Cleveland, Houston, Arizona on Christmas Eve and Baltimore on New Year's Day.

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MARVIN'S BACK: The usually reserved Marvin Harrison is coming back to Indianapolis on Sunday to be inducted into the Colts' Ring of Honor.

Harrison never said much while playing, choosing instead to let his play do the talking — something teammates, from Adam Vinatieri to Dwight Freeney, got accustomed to.

From 1996 until 2008, nobody in Colts history was better. Indy took Harrison with the 19th overall pick in the draft out of Syracuse and watched him develop into Peyton Manning's favourite receiver. He caught over 100 passes in four straight seasons, shattering the league's single-season mark for receptions with 143 in 2002. He was the NFL's only unanimous pick to the All-Pro team that season.

When he was released in a cost-cutting move in 2008, Harrison had 1,102 receptions, second in league history behind Jerry Rice. He is now third in receptions, sixth in yards receiving (14,580) and fifth all-time in TD catches (128). And in 2005, Manning and Harrison passed Jim Kelly and Andre Reed as the most prolific passing duo in league history. The tandem combined for a league record 953 completions, 12,766 yards and 112 TDs.

But Sunday will mark a first for Harrison.

"As a player that was drafted in 1996, I saw others going up into the ring. But now to be one of those players placed in the stadium for a lifetime, words can't describe how I'm feeling," Harrison said in a statement released by the team. "I've never had anything retired, jersey or number-wise, on any level. But to be recognized by the Colts is the highest honour for me and my family."

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GRONKOWSKI'S SPIKE: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has found a benefactor.

Michael A. Mudd, president of the Worcester Sharks of the American Hockey League, plans to reimburse Gronkowski the US$7,500 he was fined earlier this month for a touchdown celebration. Mudd has invited Gronkowski to spike a ceremonial puck before the Sharks play the Providence Bruins on Feb. 24 in Worcester, and Gronkowski agreed to the offer.

Gronkowski was fined for unsportsmanlike conduct for spiking the ball following his second touchdown in a win over the Jets. He finished the game with eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns in 37-16 romp.

"The Sharks are really excited that Gronkowski took us up on our offer," said Mudd.

On the same night, the team will host a March of Dimes night and a Boy Scout sleepover.

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FASHION STATEMENT?: It was so unseasonably warm in Denver that the Broncos practised in shorts this week.

They were more like short shorts, or, as coach John Fox noted, like underwear.

"They come from the 1980s," wide receiver Eric Decker explained. "We call them vintage shorts that our equipment guys pulled out for us so we could wear them out there. They're actually our cold tub shorts."

Combined with high white tube socks, the players looked more like NBA stars from a quarter-century ago than NFL players of today.

"It's just a little change-up," Fox said. "Some looked better than others, like usual. Offense decided it was time for some greys. I don't know if they were mimicking my hairdo or what, but they had a good practice. The high white socks — Brady Quinn made a catch on the service team and he looked like Larry Bird going to the hoop. No offence, Larry."

Decker said that with temperatures in the 70s and the sun beating down on them, they decided to get into the spirit Thursday.

"It was a nice, beautiful day out, so we figured we'd have a little team bonding, have some fun with it and have everyone show up in greys and to see who was going to show up with them and who wasn't," Decker said.

Running back Willis McGahee, who was promoted to team captain following Kyle Orton's departure this week, refused to wear the grey shorts and donned blue ones instead — and caught some good-natured flak about being a nonconformist.

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AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner in New York, Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia, and Arnie Stapleton of Denver, and Sports Writers Michael Marot in Indianapolis, Jimmy Golen in Boston, and Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this story.

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