As former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan sat aboard his Denver-to-Los Angeles flight Wednesday waiting to take off, authorities boarded the plane and escorted seven suspicious-looking men off of it before bomb-sniffing dogs were sent on to make sure it was safe.
As it turns out, the FBI was alerted to what passengers said were seven "Middle Eastern-looking" men that boarded United Flight 227 together, yet sat in separate seats throughout the plane. The men attempted to switch seats with other passengers and to move luggage around as the plane was being pushed back.
United's flight attendants noticed patterns they are trained to spot and alerted authorities.
Shanahan and other passengers were evacuated from their seats while authorities checked to make sure the plane was safe and checked their belongings to make sure no explosives were placed in them.
Once passengers were inspected and questioned, they were allowed to go back to their seats. The suspicious men that were removed were "re-accommodated," according to United Airlines.
"Our crew followed recognized industry standard procedures and re-accommodated some passengers on another flight," said a statement from a United spokesperson that was released to KUSA-TV 9News in Denver. "We are investigating this matter."
There have been no arrests, and investigators say there is no criminal investigation in connection to the incident.
But the passengers were worried. One passenger, Jerry Sloan of Oxnard, Calif., told 9News, "I have never seen flight attendants so scared in my life."
Once the men were removed and authorities were satisfied, the plane was permitted to depart. Almost three hours after their scheduled 1:50 p.m. departure time, Shanahan and the rest of the passengers took off for Los Angeles, where they arrived without any further incidents.
Allen is rewarded
When Minnesota traded for Jared Allen and awarded him a six-year, $74 million contract, there were questions about whether the defensive end could stay clean and out of trouble. But the Vikings now are so comfortable with Allen that they shifted $4 million of the $8 million roster bonus that is due him in March to this week, according to a league source. This means the Vikings are now on the hook for that money, no matter what happens. But with the way he has played and behaved, Allen deserves it. And there is a benefit for the Vikings as well. The move frees up salary-cap space for the Vikings for next season in the unlikely event there is a salary cap. Teams still have to prepare as if there will be a cap, which is why the Vikings split Allen's roster bonus into two parts.
Divorce in New England
After a week of controversy, New England will deactivate linebacker Adalius Thomas for today's game against Carolina. Thomas' deactivation is not just about what happened last week; it also has plenty to do with his performance this season, which NFL personnel say has dropped off noticeably. Now Thomas and the Patriots are a divorce waiting to happen. Thomas' behavior and contract now make him a perfect candidate to be one of the players purged in an uncapped year. If there is the uncapped year that most are expecting, the Patriots could cut him and be free of the $5 million he is scheduled to make next season in base salary, in addition to the $8.8 million worth of contract acceleration they would have been forced to carry in a capped year for the five-year, $35 million contract he once signed. Under the right circumstances, Thomas would be a prime candidate for the chopping block.
NFLPA conference call
In a continuing effort to unify players and keep them abreast of any progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith will hold a conference call with NFL agents Wednesday. This will mark Smith's second conference call with agents. On the first one, he debriefed agents about the potential lockout/work stoppage issues that the NFL faces in 2011. It is expected to be more of the same Wednesday, with additional discussion of how the NFLPA plans to move forward.
It's not as if Colts backup quarterback Jim Sorgi could have been hurt in a game; behind Peyton Manning he doesn't play. But the elbow and shoulder soreness he had been battling recently ended his season last week, and will lead him to visit Dr. James Andrews this week. Sorgi is expected to visit Andrews on Friday, one day after Indianapolis plays in Jacksonville, to have his elbow and shoulder examined. It's possible Sorgi will be forced to undergo some type of surgery to clean out his shoulder and elbow. But the Colts grew increasingly impatient waiting for Sorgi's pain to subside. When it didn't, they went ahead and put him on injured reserve. What is most significant about this is that the player that now might be as important to a 16-0 regular season as any is Sorgi's replacement, Curtis Painter. With the Colts likely to give Manning some rest down the stretch, Indianapolis could lean on Painter to try to help the team get to 16-0.
• Though many expect University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker to enter the draft, those close to him say he is far from reaching a final decision. He must make a decision about whether to turn pro by Jan. 15.
• Former NFL cornerback Terrell Buckley is finishing up a coaching stint with his alma mater, Florida State, and has liked it so much he plans to keep coaching and would to like one day return to the NFL.