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WhoDat 01-02-2004 07:59 AM

Saints keep making news in all the WRONG ways
Vic's picks: The best of 2003

By Vic Carucci
National Editor,

MVP: Steve McNair, quarterback, Tennessee. Like so many others, I was torn over this one for much of the season. But it came down to this: It's one thing to be a top player; it's another to constantly push yourself through injuries and minimal practice to stay at that level for most of the season. Honorable mention: Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis, Kansas City running back Priest Holmes, New England quarterback Tom Brady.

Offensive Player of the Year: Jamal Lewis. His amazing combination of speed and explosiveness has put him right where he belongs -- among the game's all-time greats. Honorable mention: Manning, Holmes, McNair.

Defensive Player of the Year: Ray Lewis, linebacker, Baltimore. He is playing the most dominant football of his career. Honorable mention: Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Anquan Boldin, wide receiver, Arizona. No other offensive rookie was in this kid's league the entire season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Terrell Suggs, defensive end, Baltimore. Honorable mention: Dallas cornerback Terence Newman, Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett.

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, New England. You can't begin any discussion about the Patriots' remarkable success without talking about their remarkable coach. Honorable mention: Bill Parcells, Dallas; Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati.

Assistant coach of the Year: Romeo Crennel, defensive coordinator, New England. Belichick gets the credit he deserves, but there is no overlooking Crennel's tremendous contribution for pushing all the right buttons in this complex scheme. Honorable mention: Lovie Smith, defensive coordinator, St. Louis; Charlie Weis, offensive coordinator, New England; Brad Childress, offensive coordinator, Philadelphia.

Comeback Player of the Year: Priest Holmes, Kansas City. He went from a frightening hip injury late last year to a dominant season that has done the most to put the Chiefs at the upper end of the league.

Story of the Year: Joe Horn's cell-phone celebration. Honorable mention: Keyshawn Johnson's deactivation; Michael Vick missing most of the season with a broken leg; the Bengals' turnaround; Jamal Lewis' 2,000-yard season.

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