Williams not in any rush to play for Philadelphia

On The NFL

February 28, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Like W. C. Fields, Ricky Williams would rather not be in Philadelphia.

The Texas running back is lobbying the Cleveland Browns to make him the top pick in the draft over quarterback Tim Couch.

"I'll be on my knees, doing like this," Williams said at the scouting combine in Indianapolis last week as he put his hands together as if he were saying a prayer. "I'll be begging."

Since Cleveland seems committed to taking a quarterback -- probably Couch -- Williams is likely to be on the board when Philadelphia makes the second pick.

The surprise for Williams is that the Eagles also may bypass him in the draft. In fact, he could easily fall to the fifth spot.

That's because there are four highly rated quarterbacks -- Couch, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper and Akili Smith -- in this draft, and teams are desperate for quarterbacks.

Culpepper even said the Eagles told him they will take a quarterback at No. 2.

That doesn't mean they will. Teams frequently send out false signals to disguise their intentions. But it wouldn't be a surprise if the Eagles take one of the quarterbacks. After all, their new coach, Andy Reid, was a quarterback coach in Green Bay.

Cincinnati picks third, and it also wouldn't be a surprise if the Bengals take a quarterback. Team president Mike Brown is a big believer in their importance.

If quarterbacks go 1-2-3, Indianapolis would likely bypass Williams at No. 4 because they have Marshall Faulk and are desperate for defensive help. USC linebacker Chris Claiborne is their likely selection.

That means Williams could still be on the board when Washington makes the fifth pick. There's speculation the Redskins would be willing to trade down, but nobody knows who'll even be making the decision because of the team's unsettled ownership situation.

Williams obviously will be disappointed if he falls that far. But he didn't help himself at the combine when he showed up 20 pounds overweight and said he'll play baseball this spring.

But then again, the teams that bypass him could be embarrassed if he turns out to be the next Earl Campbell.

Ailing

If the Ravens don't trade up to get into the quarterback derby, there's speculation they'll take North Carolina State wide receiver Torry Holt with the 10th pick.

He's a logical selection because coach Brian Billick likes to start throwing when he steps off the team bus, and Holt is supposed to be the best receiver in the draft.

Holt, though, showed up at the combine still recovering from minor knee surgery. He downplayed the injury, but it will make the Ravens' decision a bit tougher.

In mourning

Quarterback Randall Cunningham of the Minnesota Vikings had a heavy heart when he was in Philadelphia last week to accept the Bert Bell Award given to the player of the year. He joined John Unitas as the only two players to win it three times.

But Cunningham wasn't in a mood to celebrate because his quarterback coach, Chip Myers, who was promoted to the offensive coordinator's position after Billick took the Ravens' job, died of a heart attack a week ago.

"It has hit me, but it hasn't hit me. When I go there and he's not there, that's when it's going to really bother me," Cunningham said.

It's hard to believe, but this is the second time Cunningham has experienced a loss like this.

A decade ago, his Eagles quarterback coach, Doug Scovil, also died of a heart attack.

Mystery

Did the Bengals try to talk Boomer Esiason out of retirement last week?

There was speculation that was why he visited the Bengals offices. Esiason said he was just in town closing on the sale of his home and stopped by for a visit.

But quarterback Jeff Blake was obviously suspicious.

"I can't trust anyone there. There's no loyalty to me. I was demoted twice. If Boomer Esiason announced tomorrow he was coming back to football, he'd be named the starter," Blake said.

Esiason, though, stayed retired, and the Bengals paid Blake a $500,000 roster bonus, an indication he'll be on the team this fall.

Coach Bruce Coslet said, "I don't have to defend my loyalty to Jeff Blake. I gave him a job when he was cut and out on the street. I don't care if he's mad. Maybe he'll play with a chip on his shoulder and do great."

Starting over

Three former first-round picks, quarterbacks Andre Ware and Kerry Collins and running Lawrence Phillips, are starting over this year.

Ware and Phillips are starting at the bottom of the ladder in the NFL-Europe league.

By contrast, Collins is starting over in New York where he'll get $5.4 million from the Giants this year -- a $5 million signing bonus and a $400,000 base salary.

That's a stunning amount of money to give a player who's been labeled a quitter, a racist and a drunk and who was dumped by two teams last year.

Although Kent Graham is still technically the starter, the Giants are obviously counting on Collins, even though they tried to keep the signing low-key and didn't hold a news conference.

But when Collins was spotted at a Knicks game, he talked to reporters and said, "I'm going to bust my butt to prove everybody wrong about all the things they heard about me."

Collins said he hoped to get help from Giants team psychologist Dr. Joel Goldberg.

"Joel and I get along well, I think he's a guy I can trust and look to for guidance in a lot of things," Collins said.

Quotable

"In this country, anybody is allowed to say anything. [Paul] Tagliabue usually does. And, as usual, he's dead wrong."

-- Oakland Raiders attorney Joe Alioto on commissioner Paul Tagliabue's comment that the Raiders aren't a factor in the Los Angeles situation. The Raiders claim they still own the rights to Los Angeles.

Pub Date: 2/28/99

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