Vikings only team not to pass on troublesome George

On The NFL

April 11, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Nine years ago, Jeff George was the toast of the NFL.

The Indianapolis Colts, his hometown team, traded up to make him the first player selected in the 1990 draft.

It's been all downhill since.

He left Indianapolis in a storm of controversy. He left Atlanta in a storm of controversy after a public shouting match with his coach on national TV.

He couldn't even make it with the team noted for renegades -- the Oakland Raiders.

All that was left was the quarterback team of last resort -- the Minnesota Vikings. He signed last week for $400,000 -- the league veteran minimum.

Nobody else wanted him at any price.

The Seattle Seahawks traded for Glenn Foley, the Ravens traded for Scott Mitchell, the Washington Redskins traded for Brad Johnson and the San Diego Chargers traded for Jim Harbaugh. All passed on George.

The problem is George's attitude. He still doesn't seem to understand there is a problem.

"I really don't think there's anything to revive," he said at the suggestion that the Vikings would try to revive his career the way they did with Jim McMahon, Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham.

"I feel like I'm a good person once you get to know me. The people that don't know me are the ones who pass judgment on me," he said.

The surprising thing is that some of the people who do know him agree.

Even June Jones, the former Atlanta coach now at Hawaii who had the infamous sideline screaming match with George, said, "Jeff, I think, is probably a very misunderstood guy. He's one of the finest passers you'll ever be around. I think, because of what the Vikings do offensively, he will flourish again."

Since Cunningham turned 36 last month, George, 31, has time on his side. Now he's got to make the most of it.

Guessing game

The annual NFL draft will start Saturday, and it won't be a moment too soon.

The teams have proved with their endless workouts that they should move the draft to February and pick the players on how they play football and not how they run drills in shorts. You would think the owners might start figuring out these workouts are a waste of time and money.

The best example came last week when Ricky Williams didn't dazzle the Cleveland Browns in his workout.

Coach Chris Palmer said that if Williams ran "a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, then we'd be back to square one."

He didn't -- his best was 4.5 with the wind at his back -- so he's out of the running for the top pick.

It doesn't matter that Williams set 20 NCAA career rushing records, including most yardage (6,279), highest average per carry (6.2) and rushing touchdowns (72) at Texas.

Granted, some teams -- notably the New Orleans Saints, who are eager to trade up to get him but may not get any takers -- covet Williams, but the workouts now seem to overshadow what players do during the season.

Now it's Tim Couch's turn. He works out today before an 11-man Cleveland delegation that will include owner Al Lerner. He has to convince the Browns that they should take him instead of Akili Smith.

But the workout won't change the key facts. Smith has a better arm than Couch, but he had only one big year. Nobody knows whether either one will be a good pro. The scary thing for the Browns is that neither Couch nor Smith is likely to make anyone forget Peyton Manning, much less John Elway.

It's basically a guessing game and the Browns might as well pick one of the names out of a hat.

The scouts spent an extra two months scouting the players and let Terrell Davis fall to the sixth round and Jamal Anderson to the seventh. They could do the same thing in February.

Working out

New York Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde built a state-of-the-art workout room in his home in Tampa, Fla., but coach Bill Parcells wants his players working out at the Jets' facility.

So, Testaverde bought a private plane to fly to New York twice a week during the off-season for the workouts.

It turns out Testaverde may be making another trip next month to -- of all places -- Baltimore.

Haas Tailoring Company is suing Testaverde for $5,848.25 because it said Testaverde ordered several suits as gifts for his offensive teammates as quarterbacks often do. The store's attorney, Richard Gross, said Testaverde gave the store his credit card number and then refused to pay for the suits even though they were made and presented to his teammates.

Testaverde's attorney, John Burns, said that Testaverde never authorized the use of his card and filed a counterclaim against the store for $20,000 damages.

Testaverde is scheduled to appear at a trial next month in Baltimore even though a claim of less than $6,000 wouldn't appear to be worth his time in view of the fact he recently signed a $19 million deal.

Baltimore bashing

You would think that Antonio Langham and Orlando Brown would want to look to the future now that they're back in Cleveland, but they can't stop harping on the fact they hated playing Baltimore.

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