Denver wives have interest, kill principle SUPER BOWL XXXII

January 21, 1998|By Ken Rosenthal

SAN DIEGO -- Well, so much for principle.

"If it had been five grand, I wouldn't be here," Denver offensive tackle Tony Jones said. "Ten grand, my wife would kill me."

L "Mine, too," guard Brian Habib added, practically quivering.

Those big, bad Broncos offensive linemen, they refused to talk to reporters all season, then got pancaked by their cash-rushing wives.

Perhaps they'll show more commitment in the Super Bowl, but let's not expect too much of the AFC representative.

Under threat of a $10,000 fine from the NFL, the Broncos' line not only attended Super Bowl Media Day, but also sang like the Jackson Five.

So much for principle. So much for retaining anonymity. So much for the Orange Hush.

"My throat is getting sore. I haven't talked this much in a long time," Jones said on the field at Qualcomm Stadium.

Thirty-five minutes into the one-hour session, left tackle Gary Zimmerman said jokingly, "I feel like I need an IV."

Only in America.

Only at Media Day.

A serial killer can plead the Fifth Amendment in this country, and refrain from incriminating himself in a court of law.

But a law-abiding football player must endure three days of interview sessions during Super Bowl Week, or face the wrath of the NFL thought police.

It's a media orgy. It's a corporate orgy. And woe to those who seek to abstain.

"The league is the Gestapo, and it's going to fine you for whatever it feels like," guard Mark Schlereth said earlier this week. "We all talked about how the Gestapo is going to come down on us."

The Gestapo?

On second thought, maybe Schlereth and Co. should just shut up.

The truth is, the linemen have precious little to bring to the table, other than their voracious appetites. It would have been far more fun if they had stayed mute, standing like silent Buddhas before the bloodthirsty media horde.

"Why won't you talk?'

Silence.

"Ginger or MaryAnn?"

Silence.

"Your favorite Beatle?"

Silence.

Actually, Zimmerman answered the last two questions yesterday he is partial to Ginger and George Harrison, if you really must know.

It is at moments like this when sportswriters search their souls and ponder the truly important issues of the day, like Bill Clinton vs. Paula Jones.

That is, until the next free buffet calls.

Anyway, we'd call the linemen "gutless," but considering their ample midsections -- even without a 300-pounder among the starters -- perhaps that isn't the choicest word.

With Zimmerman, any and all questions are relevant -- he's pictured in the dictionary under "recluse," and he's aware that most everyone views him as a weirdo.

"I'm sure they do, because I live in the woods and everything," said Zimmerman, who makes his off-season home in Bend, Ore. "They think I'm a Kaczynski type."

The Unatackle was at it again when the linemen went out to dinner Monday night, doing his best imitation of former Orioles frontiersman Randy Myers.

"At the table he pulls out his knife and starts shaving a piece of wood and making a spear," Jones said. "I'm like, 'What is this, man?' He said, 'Oh, let's go out and hunt.' "

It was the second time this season the linemen took themselves to dinner, using the fines they collect from each other for various transgressions.

Make a mental mistake, that's $5.

Get quoted in a newspaper, that's $10.

Miss practice after getting married, that's $3,000.

Habib got hit with that last one, after he alone voted to fine reserve guard David Diaz-Infante for the same "offense" only a week before.

"I couldn't believe it," Diaz-Infante said, laughing. "It was a malicious attack."

Zimmerman paid the steepest fine -- $8,000 for missing training camp before coming out of retirement ("It was worth every penny," he said).

Later, Zimmerman paid $1,000 for receiving a game ball, with coach Mike Shanahan paying $300 for trying to suck up to Zimmerman.

Finally, a huge tiff erupted after the starters won the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award for the playoff games on wild-card weekend.

The reserves slapped a "prima donna" charge on the starters, and backup tackle Harry Swayne argued the prosecution's case in kangaroo court.

He didn't win, of course, earning the nickname, "Marcia Clark."

"I only got to make an opening statement," Swayne protested. "They got all kinds of rebuttals."

Well, they were all back on the same side yesterday, chattering ** away like radio talk-show hosts or gossipy teen-agers, whichever image suits you best.

Next, they're scheduled to join NBC's Phil Simms and Paul Maguire at a local steakhouse for a pre-game feature. Then Oprah. Then Regis and Kathie Lee. Then a stadium tour with "The Three Tenors."

The linemen could have made a stand, extending their code of silence through the Super Bowl. But they ran into an even tougher crowd than reporters -- their wives.

Maybe now they'll be ready on Sunday.

Like everyone else at the Super Bowl, they've sold out.

Game data

Denver Broncos (15-4) vs. Green Bay Packers (15-3)

Site: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

When: Sunday, 6 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 11, 4/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Packers by 12

Coming Sunday

On Sunday, look for a special section previewing the Super Bowl, with analysis, statistics, history and a guide to football -- a complete package for the knowledgeable or novice fan.

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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