Pressure is taxing Rhodes, but he doesn't seek shelter

Week 7 Preview

October 10, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Ray Rhodes is trying to get into the Super Bowl and stay out of the hospital.

The intense coach of the Philadelphia Eagles admitted this week that the job is taking a high toll on him in just his third season.

He is dealing with high blood pressure and stress and is being checked by a doctor every other week.

"I don't like this, don't like it one bit," he said of the medication he has to take for high blood pressure. "Never had to do something like this before in my life."

But Rhodes still seems to love the job of coaching a team in the town where they once booed Santa Claus.

"Oh, I got a scouting report on Philadelphia before I ever came here," he said. "I got briefed on everything that goes on in this city. I knew how tough it was here. How demanding. How unreasonable."

Rhodes relishes it.

"I wanted the challenge. I love the challenge," he said. "Man, I'm stubborn. You know that. I believe in my convictions."

Rhodes survived one crisis last Sunday, when the Eagles, who are always at their best when they have one foot on a banana peel and the other on the edge of a cliff, routed the Washington Redskins, 24-10, to improve to 2-3.

Now the Eagles need a victory to get to .500, but it doesn't get any easier, as they face the 4-1 Jaguars in Jacksonville.

Not only is it a tough game, but it's also a reminder of why Rhodes is so stressed. He doesn't have enough good players.

One of the main problems is at quarterback, where the Eagles let Mark Brunell slip through their fingers three years ago. They had made a trade with the Green Bay Packers for Brunell but couldn't get him signed. The Packers then made a deal with Jacksonville, which quickly signed Brunell.

That means Rhodes goes to Jacksonville trying to figure out how to defend against Brunell instead of having the quarterback on his side. He has to make do with Ty Detmer.

Since the Eagles can't afford to drop to 2-4, it's another crisis situation for Rhodes. And another game that's not likely to be good for his blood pressure.

Best of the rest

Cowboys at Redskins: One of the NFL's best rivalries switches to a new site with Dallas and Washington playing Monday night at the Redskins' new stadium in Landover. The game matches Emmitt Smith, who appears to have lost a step, against a Redskins run defense that is ranked 29th.

Redskins coach Norv Turner helped cause the problem when he wore down Smith with too many carries during his three years as Dallas' offensive coordinator. Turner is 3-3 against his old team and appears to look ahead to the Cowboys. The Redskins are 0-7 under Turner the week before they play Dallas. This is a record 10th Monday night game between the Redskins and Cowboys, one more than the Packers-Bears.

Dolphins at Jets: This game will match coaches who left Super Bowl contenders to get total control of a franchise, the Jets' Bill Parcells and the Dolphins' Jimmy Johnson. Parcells is making faster progress in his first year remaking the Jets than Johnson is in his second year with the Dolphins.

New York's 4-2 mark is the best six-game start for the Jets since 1986, when they started 10-1. Karim Abdul-Jabbar rushed for 100 yards in both games against the Jets last year, but the Dolphins, who ranked 19th in rushing last year, are the worst running team in the league this year.

Worth a look

Bills at Patriots: This is one of only three games this weekend in which both teams have winning records. Buffalo coach Marv Levy, who is supposed to be rebuilding, hopes to catch the Patriots on a letdown week after their emotional Monday night loss in Denver. Levy is 62-33 in AFC East games.

Thurman Thomas, who is starting to pass the torch to Antowain Smith, needs 45 yards to become an 11,000-yard rusher. Bruce Smith caused a critical safety against the Lions last week but says he's not sure his knees can last the season. The Patriots hope to score at least 23 points. They're 15-0 when they've done that the past two years.

Lions at Bucs: The Lions, who are on a win-one, lose-one pace, are due to win after losing to Buffalo last week. But they have a tough assignment because Tampa Bay needs to show it won't lapse into its old losing ways after falling in Green Bay last week. The Bucs have to stop Barry Sanders, who has reeled off four straight 100- yard games for the second time in his career.

While Emmitt Smith is slowing down in Dallas, Sanders is as good as ever and needs 15 rushing yards to pass Jim Brown for fourth place on the all-time rushing list. The Lions need to stop Warrick Dunn, who rushed for 130 yards against them in the Bucs' 24-17 win in Week 2.

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