Aikman's champion status makes him Hall shoo-in


August 08, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Troy Aikman makes his first visit to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, this weekend.

It obviously won't be his last visit.

Aikman, whose Cowboys play the Cleveland Browns tomorrow night in the annual Hall of Fame Game, will be back five years after he retires to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

With three Super Bowl rings in his jewelry case, he's an automatic first ballot Hall of Famer.

Unlike the other two members of the Cowboy Triplets, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, who are both declining, Aikman is still in his prime at age 32.

Aikman, who hasn't been giving one-on-one interviews this year, met with a dozen members of the print media last week for 45 minutes -- cameras were banned -- and talked about his carer and his goals.

"I want to win the Super Bowl as badly today as I did before I won the first one. I'd be highly disappointed if I left the game and didn't win another," he said.

The odds are he'll be disappointed. He no longer has the supporting cast he once did.

Although John Elway went out on top with his two Super Bowls in his final two years, it's likely Aikman has already seen the last of his championship days.

Joe Montana won his fourth title in January 1990 at age 33. Terry Bradshaw won his fourth a decade earlier at age 31.

But Aikman, who won his third one at age 29 in January 1996, is as motivated as ever.

He added, "The fear of losing, the fear of embarrassment, is what motivates me each and every year. At times, I may be too much of a perfectionist on the field."

Generation gap

They don't make players any more like Chuck Bednarik, the last of the two-way players.

That's why it's not surprising that Bednarik, who played his entire career for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949-1962, is not impressed with today's players.

"When I see the salaries players are making today, I cry. It boggles my mind. These kids will never have to work a day in their lives after football. That drives me crazy. But above all, the thing that irritates me most -- and I told [Eagles coach] Andy [Reid] this, to stop them -- is that when a player makes a tackle, he doesn't need to jump up and run around like an animal in a zoo," he said.

On the toughness of today's players, he said, "They're in there for three or four plays and then you see them on the sidelines."

The outspoken Bednarik is even bitter that Reid was the first Eagles coach since Dick Vermeil to invite him to practice.

"I was very bitter toward [owner Jeffrey] Lurie. What does he know about football? It seems that once you're gone, they [don't care] about Chuck Bednarik. I used to sit home and root for them to lose every game," he said.

Traveling men

Shannon Sharpe of the Denver Broncos almost caused an international incident complaining about the long trip to Australia for the exhibition game against the San Diego Chargers last night.

But Junior Seau of the Chargers couldn't have been happier about the trip.

Seau honeymooned in Australia seven years ago. He and his wife named their daughter Sydney for the host city for the 2000 Olympics.

During a TV interview, he said, "So Sydney Beau. If you're watching this honey, this is where you started."

Practice games

Charging regular-season prices for exhibition games is one of the great scams of time since the games are meaningless.

But there actually will be something to watch this year in the practice games -- the kicking game.

That's because the league passed a new rule that a dozen balls will be used only for punting and kicking. That's to prevent teams from doctoring the balls to make them easier to kick.

There's been much speculation this will cut down on the distance and accuracy of the punts and kicks because unused balls tend to be slippier.

George Young, the former Giants' general manager who now has the fancy title of league vice president of football operations, insists the rule change won't make that much difference.

"We're just looking for them to do what they're all supposed to do, which is play with the same balls. Good kickers are good kickers. This won't make a difference to them," Young said.

Read their lips

The NFL, so spoiled by cities coming up with tax money for stadiums to get teams, didn't believe that Los Angeles officials would give up an expansion team rather than kick in tax money for a new stadium.

So when league officials awarded Los Angeles a franchise in March, on the condition that Houston would get the franchise if Los Angeles didn't make a deal by Sept. 15, they assumed the city would cave.

They assumed wrong.

Los Angeles officials are willing to forfeit its franchise to Houston -- which is offering the NFL a free stadium -- rather than reach into public coffers.

"I think the NFL needs Los Angeles more than we need them," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

City councilman Joel Wachs said, "Taxes should be for firefighters and books and schools and sports on the playground, not pro sports."

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