Ringing exit is unlikely for Elway With finger finally on prize, QB appears a good bet to return

Broncos quickly urge return

He'll 'take some time, see how my body heals'

January 27, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- It would seem like the perfect ending for John Elway to ride off into the sunset as a champion with his Super Bowl ring after 15 years with the Denver Broncos.

Don't expect it to happen, though.

The odds are he'll be back for his 16th season even though he has finally earned a Super Bowl title.

That's because both coach Mike Shanahan and Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis opened their campaign yesterday to persuade Elway to return.

Elway said after the Broncos' 31-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII on Sunday night he hasn't made a decision.

"I'm going to take some time to see how my body heals and see what Mike and [owner] Pat [Bowlen] say. Then maybe I'll sit down and figure it out and decide. But not yet," he said.

Shanahan and Davis, though, said it's an easy decision and that he should return. They don't want to think about playing without Elway, 37, and Davis said he told Elway after the game not to retire.

"It's a huge blow if he does," Davis said. "This team has really never known football without John. He's been there ever since this team was, uh, it seems like it was conceived. I really want him to come back and I don't think we can imagine football without him.

"I know there's going to be a day when he has to leave the game and walk away from it. I think maybe he should give it one more shot. I don't even want to think about the idea of John's retiring. That's not healthy at all."

Shanahan rejected the notion that this is Elway's chance to go out as a champion.

"Whenever John decides to go out, he's going to go out as a champion," he said. "In the back of my mind, I think it'd be nice for him if it's one or two or three more years or even if it's just one. I think there'll be less pressure on John if he plays next year than he's ever played throughout his career.

"What else does he have to prove? What else does he have to accomplish? He's playing at an exceptional level right now. He's enjoying what he's doing and I can't think of anything better than to come back and play, especially on a competitive team."

Until Elway makes it official that he's returning, the Broncos can't even think about repeating now that they've broken the NFC's 13-game winning streak.

Their two backups are shopworn veteran Bubby Brister and young Jeff Lewis. Neither would appear capable of taking the team back to the Super Bowl.

Shanahan said if Elway did retire, he would bring in another quarterback to compete with Brister and Lewis.

Shanahan said he thinks Elway will let him know in time to make plans for the 1998 season, but he won't press Elway for a decision.

"He'll let me know in a short time. He would never leave us hanging relative to where we're at. What you don't want to do is pressure John too quickly," he said.

Even with Elway, it won't be easy for the Broncos to repeat. This is a team that lost back-to-back road games late in the year in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and now each team they play will be shooting for them.

Shanahan knows it won't be easy to be defending champions.

"It's a challenge," he said. "You have contracts that are up. You have people who want your players, especially when you have success. Sometimes when you do have success, do you have XTC the same work habits in the off-season, or do guys feel so good about themselves that they don't do the same thing that they did the year before? That's why it's hard to come back, not only to get to this game but to repeat as world champions."

Shanahan said he didn't know whether Gary Zimmerman, who came out of retirement in midseason to anchor the offensive line at tackle with ex-Raven Tony Jones, will return.

But he doesn't have to worry about losing Davis, the MVP.

The last two Super Bowl MVPs, Larry Brown of Dallas and Desmond Howard of Green Bay, were role players who got big free-agent money to sign with the Oakland Raiders, but neither has been very effective.

The Broncos tore up Davis' contract after a fine rookie season and gave him a new, five-year deal in 1996.

It has three years left, but Shanahan indicated the team would be ready to renegotiate and give him a raise.

"We've always taken care of people who've taken care of us," Shanahan said.

Davis declined to talk about his contract status.

Davis cut short his interview after the game because he felt faint, blaming the long game and the fact that he hadn't eaten. A migraine headache from a kick to the head kept him off the field in the second quarter, but it wasn't a problem afterward.

He skipped the post-game party and had room service, but said he felt fine.

Davis was headed to Disneyland and an appearance on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno last night after winning MVP honors with his 157-yard effort.

Meanwhile, there was much discussion about Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren's decision to give the Broncos a touchdown on second-and-goal from the 1 so the Packers would get the ball back with 1: 39 left and two timeouts.

Shanahan said he first thought the Broncos just did a fine job of blocking until he looked at the replay.

The way Davis was running, it's unlikely the Packers could have stopped him twice from the 1 to force a field goal, but it would have been easier to force overtime if the Packers only needed a field goal to tie. They moved from their 30 to the Green Bay 35 in just 35 seconds before they bogged down.

Shanahan, though, wasn't going to criticize Holmgren, who yesterday said he mistakenly thought it was first-and-goal when Davis scored.

"There's a lot of ways you can think about it," Shanahan said. "I'm not one to second-guess. I'm just glad it turned out in our favor."

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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