Wyche, ever the joker, laughs on

ON THE NFL

September 10, 1995|By VITO STELLINO

Sam Wyche is still a wild and crazy guy.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' coach, who got the nickname Wicky Wacky when he was in Cincinnati and once told the fans during a game, "You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati," was at it again last week.

When former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson -- long rumored to be Tampa Bay's next coach if he doesn't get the Miami Dolphins' job first -- came to town to do interviews for Fox TV, Wyche couldn't resist a gag, and Johnson went along with it.

Wyche was meeting with the team when an aide came in to say that owner Malcolm Glazer wanted to see him.

A minute later, Johnson entered the Buccaneers' locker room wearing Wyche's Tampa Bay jacket.

"There's going to be some changes around here," Johnson said. "I know you're feeling good about yourselves. You just beat Philadelphia's butt. But it's time to get to serious business. Now I've got some papers to sign, so I want you guys to get into your film study."

By this time, the players realized it was a hoax, but Johnson was still having a good time.

"Where's my man [Alvin] Harper? Is he in the whirlpool?" Johnson said.

The players exploded in laughter because the former Cowboy has been hurt most of camp.

After this went on for a while, Wyche returned.

"Remember, it was supposed to be one line. That's entirely too long with the team," Wyche said jokingly.

He added, "I started to get a little nervous when I heard them chanting, 'Jim-my! Jim-my!' "

All this gave Fox some good fodder for its pre-game show. But don't expect Don Shula to pull a similar stunt if Johnson shows

up in Miami.

Watters' apology

Ricky Watters of the Philadelphia Eagles may never live down his comments last Sunday defending himself for short-arming two passes: "I'm not going to trip up there and get knocked out. For who? For what?"

Though he apologized two days later, Eagles fans may not be quick to forgive.

As former Eagle Keith Byars, now with Miami, said: "He just made himself a living hell. He couldn't help but to [apologize], but they [fans] are still not going to forget."

Carnival time

Two of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league, Pittsburgh's Rod Woodson and Dallas' Kevin Smith, who signed an $11 million deal the day before the first game, were lost for the season with injuries on consecutive days the opening weekend of the season.

Despite the loss of Woodson, the Steelers didn't enter the Deion Sanders derby.

"It's a circus," Steelers owner Dan Rooney said. "We play football here in Pittsburgh. We're not in the carnival business."

Speaking of carnivals, ringmaster Jerry Jones, the Cowboys' owner, pulled off the greatest act by signing Sanders to a lucrative deal.

Forget that Sanders is a right corner and Smith is a left corner, so right corner Larry Brown will have to move to left corner to make room for Sanders. Forget that Sanders has a bad ankle. Forget that the Cowboys play zone and Sanders is a man-to-man cover player.

L What counts is that Jones loves flashy players like Sanders.

L But the San Francisco 49ers aren't ready to concede a thing.

Wide receiver Jerry Rice said: "We're going to the Super Bowl with him or without him. He can either come along or stay home."

That Cal guy

When Rice was asked in a conference call by Atlanta writers about his work ethic last week, he said: "A lot of guys make it to this level and just kind of rest on their achievements. That Cal [Ripken] guy is one who didn't and I think I'm like that, too. They can never take the glory of what he's done away from him, and I hope I'm the same way."

Stadium games

Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott is withholding $3 million in lease payments in a dispute with the city. That could alienate voters, who will vote on a referendum next March on a 1 percent sales tax proposal to pay for stadiums for the Bengals and Reds.

If the vote goes down, Bengals owner Mike Brown, who decided not to move to Baltimore last summer, will be looking for a new home. But he's not likely to get a second chance at Baltimore because Gov. Parris Glendening wants to pull the stadium funding if he doesn't get a commitment from a team by December.

But the NFL, which is making a major push to get new stadiums (as long as they're not in Baltimore), may be on the verge of getting a new one for the Washington Redskins after the Prince George's County Council voted last week to streamline the zoning process for a Redskins stadium.

Rookie count

Even though there are two more teams in 1995, fewer rookies made the NFL rosters this season than last season.

Last week, there were 215 rookies on opening day rosters, down three from a year ago.

The number of draft picks that made NFL teams increased to 177 (up from 163), but the percentage dropped because there were more selections (28 by the expansion teams). In 1994, 73.4 percent made it. In 1995, the figure dropped to 71 percent.

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