Eagles vs. Giants: What's the word, guys? NFL WEEK 12

PRO FOOTBALL

November 22, 1992|By VITO STELLINO

The real question about today's game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants is whether the action on the field can match the action in the loser's locker room after the game.

The loser's locker room is likely to be a lively place.

That's when the losing team will play The Blame Game.

Nobody is better at it than the players on these two teams. After they both lost last weekend, the players had no trouble figuring out what went wrong.

It wasn't their play. It was the coaches' fault.

Eagles linebacker Seth Joyner said the team was victim of conservative play-calling by the Eagles coaches.

"I can't understand. Is it just me?" Joyner said.

"No, it isn't just you," linebacker Byron Evans said.

They overlooked the fact the defense gave up 27 points in a 27-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

After a 27-13 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Giants were upset about the read-and-react defense of Giants assistant coach Rod Rust.

"After 11 weeks, you'd think we'd have a good indication of what direction we're going on defense," cornerback Mark Collins said. "I don't feel that yet."

By the end of the week, Pepper Johnson decided the players should just play their own defense, prompting a New York tabloid to run the headline: "Mutiny."

Johnson said, "They don't want us to [free-lance], but I think we're going to anyway."

Coach Ray Handley brushed it off. "There's no question Pepper wants to win so if he wants to talk a little bit, he's certainly earned the right," Handley said.

In Philadelphia, coach Rich Kotite told the players to knock it off, prompting Joyner to hold his last news conference.

"This is it. Get ready. Write it down. This is the last interview Seth Joyner will give this year," he said Thursday.

Or until he's in the mood to talk again. If the Eagles lose today, he could change his mind. In any case, the players on the losing team in this game figure to be speaking out. Too bad they don't play as well as they talk.

Iron Mike

Mike Ditka, the coach of the Chicago Bears, had another interesting week. Among other things, he threatened to take on a fan in Tampa Bay and called kicker Kevin Butler "gutless," "mentally weak" and "the worst kicker in the league" even before he missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt that would have tied the game against the Buccaneers. Ditka was upset that Butler had a kickoff go out of bounds.

By midweek, though, Ditka decided he's doing a good job.

"I think I motivate as well as any coach. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure I don't motivate as well as any coach in football ever

has. That is a bold statement to make, but I'm making that statement," he said.

One way he motivates is by doing commercials with players he chews out. After he went ballistic about a Jim Harbaugh audible that went for an interception in Minnesota, he did a commercial with Harbaugh for portable phones mocking their lack of communication.

Will he now do one with Butler?

Knocking the fans

Coaches are getting a bit testy with the fans. Ditka wants to fight them and Dan Reeves of the Denver Broncos criticized his fans for doing the wave when the Broncos had the ball last week.

"The fans have got to be more knowledgeable than that. I've been here 12 years and I can't ever remember having a problem . . . I thought maybe we were in New York or something," Reeves said.

Yo, Dan, the fans pay the freight and your salary.

The odd man out

When Joe Montana was quarterbacking the San Francisco 49ers, he was almost never in the locker room when the reporters were allowed in for interviews.

But when the reporters were allowed in last week, Montana was the only player in the locker room. This time, he was willing to talk because he's lobbying to return. He says he feels "98 to 99 percent normal and the rest is just a lack of playing."

Montana, though, knows the 49ers are in no hurry to bring him back as long as Steve Young is healthy and playing well.

"Steve has been doing well, the team has been playing well and George (Seifert) is not going to do anything to upset the team and that's understandable," he said.

In the past, Montana has always said he won't stick around as a backup next year.

He backed off that stand somewhat when he said, "Look, I've got enough problems now. We'll talk about that after the year is over."

Battling back

Mike Utley, the Detroit Lions' guard who was paralyzed last Nov. 17 against the Los Angeles Rams, plans to give one of his rare interviews on Thanksgiving Day on NBC-TV.

Jeff Inwood, the executive director of the Mike Utley foundation, said Utley isn't feeling sorry for himself.

"I'm sure he may reflect back to this date a year ago, but he said he felt sorry for himself for one moment and didn't like it and he'll never do it again," he said.

Utley is paralyzed from the chest down except for movement in (( his toes. He's able to pull himself along parallel bars in leg braces and his next goal is to walk with crutches and leg braces.

Movie man

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