Saints feel strain of Williams' sprain

On The NFL

August 29, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

When Mike Ditka was playing at the University of Pittsburgh, there's no evidence he ever set foot in the medical school.

That didn't stop the New Orleans Saints coach from giving a medical opinion last week. He said Ricky Williams, who suffered a high ankle sprain in his first preseason game Aug. 13 and hasn't played since, will be ready to open the season.

The reality is that even the doctors aren't sure if Williams will be ready to open the season, but a layoff isn't good for any running back.

Especially one the Saints gave up their entire 1999 draft and their first- and third-round picks next year to get.

It's not good for Williams, either, because he needs Terrell Davis numbers (averaging 1,600 yards a year) to get the big cash in his contract.

Williams set off a firestorm when he went to the LSU Medical Center and said a doctor told him he might be out six weeks.

He then said that the doctor who examined him doesn't usually deal with athletes and that the doctor didn't tell him directly, but he read it on a piece of paper.

How he'd get the paper?

"I don't know. I just found it," he said.

Whatever.

The bottom line is that the Saints, who've already lost defensive lineman Joe Johnson for the season with a knee injury, can only cross their fingers and hope Williams will be ready to start the season.

After the investment the Saints made in Williams, Ditka will have egg on his face to go with the dreadlocks if Williams isn't there for the opening bell.

Threepeat?

Bill Romanowski is the third player in NFL history to have two chances at a Super Bowl threepeat.

He played for the San Francisco 49ers when they won in the 1988 and '89 seasons and has played with the Denver Broncos the past two seasons.

The other two are Marv Fleming, who played for the first two Green Bay Packers Super Bowl teams and the 1972-73 Miami Dolphins teams, and Charles Haley, who played with the 1988-89 49ers and the 1992-93 Dallas Cowboys.

Romanowski said the Broncos have a better chance than the 49ers did in 1990.

"George Seifert that year made some decisions to keep some of the older veterans around in backup positions, and they weren't really in a position to help out on special teams. But he kept them around for leadership, and I think it hurt us a little bit," he said.

Romanowski is just kidding himself. The 1990 49ers are the perfect example of why teams don't win three straight.

The 49ers went 14-2 that year and were running out the clock on a 13-12 victory over the New York Giants in the NFC title game when Roger Craig fumbled, leading to Matt Bahr's field goal that won it for the Giants.

Seifert's personnel decisions had nothing to do with the 49ers' fate that year. It was one fumble that did it. Now, the question is whether the Broncos will suffer a similar misfortune this year.

Ford Jr. outspoken

Bill Ford Jr., son of the Detroit Lions owner and vice chairman of the club, is continuing to be one of the most outspoken critics of his fellow owners.

At the league meetings in March, he said the owners were always "whispering in the corners." He said that everybody seems to have his own agenda and added: "I've never been part of anything like it. The CIA has nothing on this place."

In a round-table discussion for Sports Illustrated, Ford said the owners aren't concerned enough about the game on the field.

"I do find it disconcerting that some owners don't look at the product they're putting on the field as central to what they're doing. Some of the owners, all the tangential things seem important to them. Like NFL Properties. To some, the game almost seems incidental," he said.

It's unfortunate that Ford has a good day job of running the Ford Motor Co., because his interest in the game would probably enable him to be a splendid commissioner when Paul Tagliabue steps down. Tagliabue said he's going to bow out in 2005.

Building a legacy

Ravens coach Brian Billick likes to say that Baltimore fans are ready to forgive the Ravens for not being the Colts.

Some of the members of the national media don't seem to be so forgiving. A Dallas writer, picking the Ravens to go 6-10, wrote in his analysis: "These are the Baltimore Ravens, not the Baltimore Colts. Always will be."

But then, it's tough to live up to the Colts' legacy.

Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman picked a 41-player all-century team, and the 1958-59 Colts had three players on it -- John Unitas as the pre-1978 rule change quarterback (Joe Montana was post-1978), Jim Parker at offensive guard and Raymond Berry as possession receiver.

They were topped only by the Raiders of the late 1970s, who had four -- Dave Casper, Art Shell, Willie Brown and Ted Hendricks.

Around the league

The Cowboys, who play the Broncos tonight, are 0-8 in exhibition games under coach Chan Gailey.

Cleveland's Big Dawg fan (John Thompson) is -- believe it or not -- marketing his own cereal.

There are seven NFL players still holding out, and three -- Rob Moore, L. J. Shelton and Mark Smith -- are Arizona Cardinals.

Quotable

"If you want to keep your team good, you have to have money and you have to spend it. I get some money from my other holdings. This is a very tough business to be competitive in if your only source of income is your football team." -- Ralph Wilson, Buffalo Bills owner, on the Ravens' disadvantage of not having a deep-pockets owner.

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