Paralyzed Stingley is one reason Cardinals' Cecil won't get off easy


October 03, 1993|By VITO STELLINO

When Chuck Cecil of the Phoenix Cardinals was nailed with a $30,000 fine a week ago for repeatedly hitting opponents with his helmet, he was quick to complain.

He said he'd appeal and argued he's always played that way.

"I'm playing the same way I did 12, 13, 14 years ago when I was in high school and now all of a sudden, it's illegal. I don't understand," Cecil said.

Don't expect his appeal to be successful.

The fine was endorsed last week by the one person who understands firsthand how dangerous helmet hits can be.

He's Darryl Stingley, the former New England Patriots wide receiver who was paralyzed by a Jack Tatum hit in 1978.

Stingley, who lives in Chicago, said: "You've got to fine them to remind them. By fining him, you single him out and put him in a fish bowl."

He added: "People watch us and liken us to a character in a Nintendo game. But there's a living, breathing human being under there. With a family."

Although Stingley was the last player paralyzed by a hit from a defensive back (Mike Utley in 1991 and Dennis Byrd, who recovered last year, were linemen paralyzed by freak collisions), he thinks the NFL has to remain vigilant.

"We need more actual policing of the game," he said.

That doesn't mean Stingley is against hard hitting.

He said he was a big fan of Hall of Fame middle linebacker Dick Butkus, who played his last year with the Chicago Bears in 1973 when Stingley was a rookie.

"Players disappeared when Dick Butkus hit them. He played hard and tough. And we knew he did a few things like biting and scratching. But he never meant to hurt anybody."

Cecil probably doesn't mean to hurt anybody, either.

But those hits with the crown of his helmet are as dangerous to Cecil as the players he hits.

The rematch

Don't expect the Buffalo Bills to be intimidated tonight when they host the New York Giants in a rematch of Super Bowl XXV.

That's because the Bills tend to dominate the NFC -- except in the Super Bowl. They're 11-2 against NFC teams since 1990. The only two losses came in 1990 and 1991 in the season finales when the Bills were resting veterans against the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions.

The Bills already have avenged last year's Super Bowl loss, beating the Dallas Cowboys, 13-10, although they were helped by the fact Emmitt Smith was holding out.

If they beat the Giants tonight, they'll have a chance to sweep all three teams they lost to in the Super Bowl. They play host to the Redskins Nov. 1.

Carlton Bailey, the Baltimore native who signed with the Giants as a free agent, has a unique perspective on today's game because he was on the Bills' three Super Bowl-losing teams.

"People don't remember we played them [Giants] twice that year. We beat them in the regular season, and it was just unfortunate we lost the second game," Bailey said.

The Giants, of course, have a new coach who knows something about losing Super Bowls. He's Dan Reeves, who lost three of them as head coach of the Denver Broncos.

Expansion update

It's deja vu all over again for the Charlotte expansion officials.

When the owners got the first look at its stadium-financing proposal in May of 1992, they had a negative reaction to the idea of financing the stadium simply with club seats and luxury boxes.

So Charlotte redesigned the plan to include Premium Seat Licenses in which they'd put a surcharge on 62,000 seats. Money raised was to be used to finance a new stadium. They sold about 50,000 of them and presented the plan in Chicago.

Mark Richardson, who designed the plan, said last week that the owners still don't like the Charlotte request for a waiver to put $3.2 million of its $9.4 million club-seat revenue each year into stadium financing for 15 years, instead of sharing it with the visiting teams.

Richardson said Charlotte will now try to revise the plan a third time before the teams are named at the end of the month.

"That's our challenge: to find areas where we can free up cash to allow us to share club-seat premiums at an earlier date and still retire the debt on our stadium. It's a challenge and we are optimistic that we will be able to work it down from the 15-year exemption," he said.

Charlotte's problem is that the owners put much more of an emphasis on the visiting team's share than commissioner Paul Tagliabue does.

At the meeting in Chicago a week ago, Tagliabue said, "Everyone always likes to see the largest visiting team share they can get. In terms of what we're looking at here, it's a positive, but it's not going to make or break a National Football League team. The differentials that we're talking about would pay 50 percent of the salary of the average player. Relative to the big picture, it's not a big number."

Since the average salary is now $650,000, he was talking about a swing of roughly $325,000.

That's a bigger number to the owners than it is to Tagliabue. The owners were willing to save $50,000 each by cutting his salary from $3 million to $1.6 million.

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