Modell already envisions great things from Zeier

ON THE NFL

November 05, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Is Eric Zeier this year's Gus Frerotte?

A year ago, as a rookie, Frerotte made his first start in the Washington Redskins' eighth game and beat the Indianapolis Colts.

Zeier, who could be destined to be a household name in Baltimore, made his first start in the Cleveland Browns' eighth game last week and beat the Cincinnati Bengals.

Now Zeier is the Browns' starting quarterback, but Frerotte knows how difficult it can be for a rookie quarterback. Last year, he lost his next three starts and was benched before getting the job back this year when Heath Shuler was injured in the opener.

"It's very hard to keep doing it every week. You're the quarterback, you're the guy who has the ball on every play. There's a lot of pressure on you, no matter where you're picked. As a rookie, there's that much more pressure on you. You don't know the offense extremely well. You haven't been there five, six years to really learn the system. It takes a while to really get a feel for everybody, and I think that puts pressure on you," Frerotte said.

Zeier, though, is being expected to do it every week.

"I think he's going to captivate the town. I'm not printing Super Bowl tickets just yet, but he's got things that I haven't seen in a rookie quarterback in a long time. This guy is a very talented kid," owner Art Modell said.

One thing Zeier did was get the ball to Andre Rison, who had caught only 17 passes from Vinny Testaverde in the first seven games.

Zeier got the ball to Rison seven times, which explains why Rison was raving about him.

"Eric's a football player, not just a quarterback. He reminds me of a John Elway. He rolls out. His arm is strong enough to throw anywhere on the field. He had great leadership in practice prior to this game. I think any quarterback who comes into this game as a youngster, the first thing you have to do is not be intimidated or afraid, and that's the one thing he showed. He is not intimidated or afraid.

"What I mean about being a football player is that he makes plays, but at the same time he can run the system. Occasionally, you have to make plays within the system, because everything is not book-written on that field. Things change and you have to adjust," Rison said.

Zeier scrambled six times in the 29-26 overtime win in Cincinnati and also gained 13 yards on an important quarterback draw on third down. In total, he ran eight times for 44 yards.

Dilemma

Coach Bill Belichick of the Browns faces a unique task today when the team starts the second half of the season against the Houston Oilers.

He's got to try to keep his 4-4 team in the playoff hunt, even though it is likely to face the challenge of playing as a lame duck team if the Browns announce tomorrow that they are moving.

Distractions are often difficult on a football team, and no team has ever faced such a situation.

Although a few teams -- notably the 1987 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1994 Los Angeles Rams -- were considered likely candidates to move, no team has officially announced a move in the middle of a season, so it's difficult to predict how the team will react.

Sharing the Bay Area

Now that the Raiders are back in the Bay Area, don't look for them to coexist well with the 49ers.

The 49ers made no secret of the fact they didn't want the Raiders back in the Bay Area and Raiders owner Al Davis is likely to keep the rivalry fueled.

At a news conference last week supposedly called to promote the team because ticket sales are lagging, Davis said of the 49ers, "I'll say this -- and this is going to cause a furor -- but no team has violated the rules of this league more than the 49ers."

He cited the DeBartolo family's ownership of teams in other sports and paying bonuses to veterans for crossing the picket line.

Davis doesn't have to worry about violated rules. He makes his own.

Rivalry

The San Diego-Miami game today is a rematch of last year's playoff game that opened wounds that haven't healed.

The Chargers were upset when league officials let the Dolphins practice at Jack Murphy Stadium the day before their playoff game. The Chargers didn't practice at the stadium that day, because there was a threat of rain and the Chargers didn't want the tarp taken off the field.

Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard, who once worked for Dolphins coach Don Shula, fumed: "Shula owns the league. Anything he wants, he gets. I lost a lot of respect for Don for what he pulled."

Shula admitted last week that his relationship with Beathard is no longer the best.

"Some of the comments that were made hurt our relationship," he said.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins were unhappy that the lights went out in their locker room at halftime.

Maybe they'll bring flashlights today.

Dispute

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Jeff George made a visit to the Indianapolis Colts' complex recently, but it wasn't a social visit.

George, who was drafted by the Colts before being traded to Atlanta, is still squabbling with the club over $1 million of his rookie signing bonus.

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