Coughlin struck by attitude adjustment

ON THE NFL

July 28, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

It might be called the mellowing of Tom Coughlin.

The Jacksonville Jaguars coach became known for his drill sergeant approach in the team's first season a year ago. He was called a "dictator" by one player because he had so many rules.

Things are a lot different this year. The team has shorter practices, players can kneel on the field and take off their helmets and don't have to keep their chin straps buckled.

Although he says "not a lot has changed," Coughlin seems to be learning he needs more flexibility in dealing with highly paid Generation X players.

The biggest difference, though, is that two of the players who don't have to buckle their chin straps are Natrone Means and Andre Rison.

A year ago, Coughlin might not have wanted either one. Both have a lot of baggage.

Bobby Beathard and Bobby Ross dumped Means in San Diego because he was considered an attitude problem and always was holding out.

The Ravens dumped Rison for salary cap reasons, but it didn't help that he's not a fanatic about being on time for meetings or running the right routes.

Coughlin grabbed both and it will be interesting to see if this gamble works. After a 4-12 first season, Coughlin is willing to take chances.

"There's a risk-reward factor in everything you do," Coughlin said in coach-speak.

Rison, of course, was on his best behavior when Coughlin interviewed him. "He was humble, he was serious," Coughlin said.

He was a bargain, too, because the Ravens already had paid his signing bonus. Coughlin will pay Rison $4.1 million the next two years. The Ravens will be charged virtually the same amount -- $4 million under the cap -- the next two years for the rest of his bonus.

Michael Huyghue, the Jaguars' vice president for football operations, said, "I think it would be great if we can go to church and get guys who were all former altar boys, but that's not the way it is."

Rison, of course, is saying all the right things. For now.

"I know I'm a good person," Rison said.

What remains to be seen is whether Rison can show up on time for all the meetings. And what Coughlin will do if he doesn't.

Speaking loudly

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who likes to speak loudly and carry a soft stick, was at it again last week when he suspended Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin.

Tagliabue sent Irvin a strongly worded letter and then released ,, excerpts. He said Irvin's actions "had an extremely adverse impact on the league" and created "an off-season of turmoil for many people." He added that Irvin's visibility "magnifies the negative and detrimental impact of your misconduct on the league."

nTC After all that, Tagliabue suspended him for just five games, one game more than Bam Morris got without a lecture.

As expected, the penalty was viewed as mild around the country and a Fort Worth, Texas, columnist even said Tagliabue "wimped out."

The problem for Tagliabue was that he had to follow drug suspension guidelines because the league hasn't taken much action against players for misconduct that doesn't involve drugs. The general policy has been that as long as they're not in jail, they can play.

But with the league getting such a black eye, it might be time for it to get together with the players union and install a code of conduct.

Things could get messy, though, if that policy were to apply to owners, too. When it comes to conduct, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has not exactly been a role model. There have been allegations of womanizing published against him. Another owner, Seattle's Ken Behring, is facing a sexual harassment suit.

Even the coaches are having problems. A Cincinnati assistant, Tim Krumrie, was arrested on drunken driving charges last week, and a sealed suit was filed by a Jane Doe against a John Smith recently in Minneapolis.

It has been learned that the Smith is Vikings coach Dennis Green, who refused to tell the team's board of directors what the suit is about. Green has faced sexual harassment suits in the past, but there has been no indication whether this one involves that subject.

In any case, it's obvious that Irvin is not the end of the league's image problems.

Playing minus playmaker

Since Dallas started its Super Bowl run in 1992, the Cowboys are 46-11 when Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Irvin are on the field. When one is missing, they're 3-4.

Compounding the problem is that they seem intent on turning Deion Sanders into a full-time receiver in Irvin's absence.

Turning the game's best cornerback into an average receiver at best seems to hurt two positions. They may be better off signing a veteran wide receiver for minimum salary until Irvin returns.

One thing the Cowboys have going for them is that they still play in such a weak division. They have a huge edge at the key quarterback position with Aikman matched against Philadelphia's Rodney Peete, the Giants' Dave Brown, Arizona's Boomer Esiason and the Gus Frerotte-Heath Shuler combo in Washington.

The city guy

Baltimore native Sean Landeta isn't impressed by the St. Louis Rams' new training camp in Macomb, Ill., a town of about 20,000 that was shocked recently by its first murder in seven years.

"I've never seen so much corn in my life," the punter said. "Not acres of corn, but miles and miles of corn. I don't know what the people do every day. How do you pass the months and years by? I was thinking if I lived here, I'd have the biggest satellite dish. Not the one that gets 200 channels, 2,000. I'd have to have a swimming pool. I'd have to have pool, pinball, pingpong, 10 80-inch TVs, computers and a fax machine."

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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