Maligned Leaf and Collins finally get positive spin

On The NFL

November 22, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Kerry Collins and Ryan Leaf, who were the victims of negative comparisons a week ago, are now being compared in a more positive sense.

A week ago, the two young quarterbacks were being held up as examples of everything that's wrong with today's modern, immature athletes.

Now they've both taken the first step toward showing they still have a chance to grow up and become responsible adults and players.

Collins had been tagged as a racist and a drunk in Carolina and then -- depending on which version you believe -- was shipped out after telling Panthers coach Dom Capers he had lost his passion for the game.

After being claimed by New Orleans, Collins denied he had a drinking problem, returned to Charlotte, N.C., with the team and got arrested on a drunken-driving charge after the game.

Last Sunday, he became the fourth quarterback the Saints have started this year, and led them to a victory. Granted, it was against the woeful Rams, but it was a positive showing. He wound up completing 13 of 26 passes for 150 yards and ran seven times for 38 yards.

Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but it was a first step.

After the game, he said, "I did a stupid thing two weeks ago [referring to his DUI arrest]. It was kind of a wake-up call."

Conceding it was just one game, he said, "I was excited to be playing again. I think I lost some of that excitement when I was at Carolina. But I had some time off, some time to think, and I was just anxious to get out there and have some fun again."

Now it's up to Collins to show he can keep doing it, and he faces a tough assignment today against San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Leaf was benched in San Diego after a weekend at his alma mater, Washington State, in Pullman, Wash., in which he was tossed out of two bars and a convenience store for boorish behavior. He followed that with a terrible game against Denver.

Against the Ravens last week, it was the first time in 38 college and pro games that he didn't start. But he didn't sulk when Craig Whelihan got the 14-13 victory. He even hugged Whelihan after his touchdown pass.

The next day, Leaf said, "You just regret the main things that went bad on the season. You just wish they didn't happen."

It was a contrast to his remarks before the game that he had no regrets for anything he had done.

Of all the letters to the editor in the San Diego paper criticizing him, he said, "When people write in and say they're disappointed because of me, I feel bad in that case. I feel bad we may lose season-ticket holders. We can't have that happen."

At least it's a start for Leaf. He'll remain the backup as long as Whelihan keeps getting victories. It's up to Leaf to mature while he's on the bench.

Discontent in Cincinnati

In this era of taxpayer-funded stadiums and permanent seat licenses, fans might not be as patient as they have been in the past.

The latest example is in Cincinnati, which is building a new stadium. Fans had to buy PSLs under the new Charter Ownership Agreements to keep their season tickets.

The Bengals have the worst record of any team that hasn't moved in this decade. The Rams, who moved from Anaheim, Calif., to St. Louis, have three fewer victories.

Meanwhile, the fans in Cincinnati are getting frustrated with this year's 2-8 record. There's talk of boycotting today's game with the Ravens, and one talk show host will hold a rally outside the stadium protesting the Mike Brown regime in the first quarter.

Brown, the team president, said he understands the frustration, but defends the way the team is run. It doesn't have one executive in charge, but Brown said the club does things by "consensus."

Frugal Dolphin

Linebacker Zach Thomas of the Dolphins is the son of a self-made oil millionaire, but he doesn't throw money around.

Of his father, he said, "He has money, but he doesn't show it. He's a guy who's worn the same stuff ever since I was young."

Thomas does the same thing.

His roommate, Larry Izzo, said, "He's no longer wearing all that Texas Tech stuff around. Now it's all Nike. It's free gear. So it's not like he's going to be spending his own money."

Remembering Weeb

In a conference call with New York writers, Joe Namath was quite emotional in talking about former Colts and Jets coach Weeb Ewbank, who died last week.

"It takes everything out of you. I don't know how else to deal with it, other than to say it's like you see a football and jam a nail into it and the air comes out. That's how you feel," he said.

It's a tribute to Ewbank that he coached two of the best quarterbacks ever, Namath and John Unitas, and they both have nothing but glowing things to say about him.

The present-day Jets, though, know Ewbank only as the man the team's training facility is named after.

Veteran Keith Byars said, "A lot of these young guys don't know who played in 1980, let alone who coached in the 1960s. And it's not just football. You look at baseball and you've got guys who don't know who Jackie Robinson was."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.