AFC notebook

September 12, 1999|By KEN MURRAY

East

The Patriots have 24 players left on their roster from the Bill Parcells era. The Jets have just five former Patriots on theirs. But those diminished numbers won't lessen the significance of Tuna Bowl V at the Meadowlands today. Patriots coach Pete Carroll, 1-3 against the Jets since replacing Parcells two years ago, called it a "grudge" game last week. "I don't think it'll ever go away," Carroll said of the scrutiny he faces when he's up against Parcells, who is known as Tuna. "I don't think there's any way you can make it go away. That's just what it is. The job description includes that." The Jets won in New England (by 10 points) and at home (by 21) last year. What makes it worse for the Patriots is that two of the four draft picks they received in compensation for losing Parcells have been busts. Running back Sedrick Shaw was sent to Cleveland, and guard Damon Denson was cut this summer. That leaves wide receiver Tony Simmons and linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer. Kevin Gogan, a free agent signed this season, and Kevin Donnalley, a free agent signed a year ago, will alternate starts at right guard for the Dolphins. Gogan draws the opener tomorrow night against Denver. Carroll, by the way, is 4-1 against Miami's Jimmy Johnson. Bills running back Antowain Smith, hampered much of the preseason with a groin injury, should get well today at Indianapolis. In four career games against the Colts, he's rushed for 408 yards and seven touchdowns. The Bills, meanwhile, are fine-tuning their offense and will use more five-wide receiver sets to capitalize on quarterback Doug Flutie's skills.

Central

The Bengals gave Corey Sawyer a three-year, $1.7 million contract in the off-season. Last week, they cut him, despite the fact he was their most experienced cornerback. They will start rookie Charles Fisher and second-year man Artrell Hawkins at the corners in the opener at Tennessee. Coach Bruce Coslet was less than enthusiastic in talking about the inherent risk. "It's unusual and I understand your questions and reasoning," he told the media. "But it's a path we chose and we're going to see what happens." Bombs away. Browns coach Chris Palmer was careful not to quash talk of a possible playoff run during camp, even though he knew better. The Browns get seven extra draft picks in 2000 if they fail to make the playoffs their first season. "If the team ever felt as though I was playing for seven extra picks, there'd be a new head coach here because the team would turn on me very quickly," Palmer said. The Steelers' offense scored one touchdown in the last 17 quarters of a five-game losing streak to end the 1998 season. They averaged one touchdown every 12 possessions in the preseason. Said wide receiver Hines Ward, "You haven't seen our offense yet." He's right about that.

West

Here's why new Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren won't trade holdout receiver Joey Galloway: Over the last three seasons, only Antonio Freeman of the Packers and Cris Carter of the Vikings have caught more touchdown passes (35 each) than Galloway (29). The knock on Galloway, 27, is that he doesn't do a lot of damage on routes across the middle. Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson, rookie defensive Player of the Year in 1998, had a quiet preseason. How quiet? In four games, he saw only two passes come his way, one completed, the other nearly intercepted. In his first two games, Woodson will be facing Freeman in Green Bay and Randy Moss in Minnesota. Look for Eagles castoff Bobby Hoying to have a quarterbacking rebirth in Oakland. Acquired for a sixth-round pick during camp, Hoying went 16-for-30 for 197 yards in two preseason games for the Raiders to supplant 40-year-old Wade Wilson as Rich Gannon's backup. Raiders coach Jon Gruden was offensive coordinator in Philadelphia in 1997, when Hoying posted a passer efficiency rating of 83.8 in seven games. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and Denver Post beat writer Adam Schefter collaborated on a motivational book in the off-season. The title is "Think like a champion; Building success one victory at a time." Shanahan, fired by Raiders owner Al Davis in 1989, wears silver (suit) and black (shirt) on the cover. "I thought Al would like that," said Shanahan, who has won seven of eight games against the Raiders.

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