Montana puts 49ers behind him Says he left S.F. in mind long before joining Chiefs

July 21, 1993|By Bud Geracie | Bud Geracie,Knight-Ridder News Service

RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- Joe Montana is making friends with Dave Krieg and making no secret of it. You see them around town at night. The first day here, the two quarterbacks went out for a beer.

"I just don't want to get into another adverse situation," Montana said. "That's why I left."

Montana is a Kansas City Chief, he says, with no hard feelings for San Francisco 49ers coach George Seifert or president Carmen Policy and especially not for owner Eddie DeBartolo. Whether he harbors a grudge against 49ers quarterback Steve Young, Montana doesn't say. But he doesn't need to.

Montana described his relationship with Young as "a working relationship," but then he cryptically added, "It was very competitive because I understood what he wanted and how he was trying to go about getting it."

Which was how, exactly?

"A lot different than most people believe," Montana replied. "But I don't want to get into all that."

With this lone exception, huge as it is, Montana seems to have put the 49ers behind him. He is deep into his new team, much deeper than Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott were in their first training camp as Raiders. It turns out Montana had a head start on the process. He left the 49ers in mind long before he left them in body.

"I knew I was leaving part way through last season," Montana said. "My mind was made up.

"I could see they were trying to make the change. . . . Otherwise they would have given me a shot right from the beginning, that we could compete."

That's all he ever wanted, Montana said, a chance to compete for the job he lost to Young by medical default. What he got, Montana said, was more time on the injured list than he needed and very little practice time once he finally was restored to the active roster.

Deep down, the 49ers wanted him to leave, Montana said, but in the end, "I think they were just trying to save [themselves] publicly."

Montana's account of the wild events leading up to his departure jibes with the 49ers' account. Still, he has the same questions as everybody else:

Why would Seifert, after backing Young to the hilt all season, suddenly turn on the Most Valuable Player and offer the starting quarterback job to Montana? Was Seifert put up to it by a higher authority? And why weren't Young's people up in arms?

Montana strongly suspects that the 49ers knew he wouldn't accept their offer, and he believes this must have been communicated to Young, either directly or through his agent Leigh Steinberg.

"I'm sure [the 49ers] had a conversation with Steve, even if they won't admit it. They certainly weren't going to do that without telling him, so I'm sure there was some other deal made on the side," Montana said.

Montana says he finds it "difficult to believe" that Seifert made such an about-face on his own, but he doesn't rule it out.

He said he has "no bad feelings" for Seifert. "I respect George. I respect Carmen a lot. But the person I really cared about understanding was Eddie."

That's why, on the Saturday that Montana struck his own deal with Kansas City, he jetted directly to DeBartolo's home in Youngstown, Ohio. "I didn't want him hearing it from somebody else," Montana said. "He understood totally."

rTC But before any trade talks with the Chiefs would be undertaken, DeBartolo wanted Montana to speak with Seifert. Seifert had something to offer, DeBartolo said, and DeBartolo's role did not go beyond placing the call.

Montana said he doesn't recall Seifert's exact words, but he remembers hearing the term "designated" starter and wondering what it meant. Could he be "un-designated" as swiftly as he had been designated? Montana said he didn't give it much thought. He was gone, months gone.

"That would have been a worse situation for me," he said of Seifert's proposal. "If I take it, it's like I complained my way into the job. If I don't take it, it's, 'Oh, why didn't he take it? They gave him what he wanted.'

"Well, I didn't want that. All I wanted was a chance to compete for it."

For never getting that chance, Montana, for whatever reasons, seems to hold Young as responsible as Seifert. Ask how Montana would have handled the situation as a coach or GM and his first three words are, "I don't know." But he does know.

"If he truly is the player they believe he is," Montana said of Young, "there should have been no qualms about him competing with me and no worry about how it would affect him mentally. If he can't handle the pressure of competing, he certainly isn't going to be able to handle the pressure later on.

"I didn't ask to be given the job. I just wanted a chance for him to earn it -- not for it to be given to him."

Steve Young is the 49ers' quarterback. Joe Montana is Kansas City's quarterback. They are not friends. They are rivals, and no amount of time or distance will change that. Imagine if their teams meet in the Super Bowl. Montana has.

"I think it would be fun," he said. "I think it would be a lot of fun."

Montana is beaming at the prospect, and something in his smile says he sees the chance he never got.

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