Notebook

October 03, 1999|By Vito Stellino

AFC East

Since Jimmy Johnson became head coach in 1996, the Dolphins are 4-0 at home against Buffalo and 5-2 overall, including a 24-17 wild-card playoff victory last season. Doug Flutie, who has also played for Chicago and New England, has gone head-to-head with Dan Marino four times and has a 3-1 edge, with the playoff loss in January his only setback. CBS lobbied the league to give it the Broncos-Jets AFC title game rematch on Sunday as a lead-in to a Bill Parcells interview on "60 Minutes." The NFL, which was thinking of making it a "Monday Night Football" game, agreed. With both teams 0-3, the game has lost much of its luster and is now being called "Jets-Broncos Lite."

AFC Central

In the first eight games, the home team has won every game in the Jacksonville-Pittsburgh series. Today's game is in Pittsburgh. Despite all the hype in Cleveland over the first game against the Ravens, the TV rating in Cleveland was almost 30 percent lower than the rating for the Browns-Titans game. In Cleveland, they blamed competition from the Ryder Cup and an Indians game. Bengals running back Ki-Jana Carter found out from watching ESPN that he had been placed on injured reserve for the season. "At least out of respect, call and tell me," he said. Cincinnati president Mike Brown said, "It's just unfortunate. It's not a major thing, but it's not the way you want to happen."

AFC West

Denver offensive lineman Mark Schlereth, who learned the value of team unity on Joe Gibbs' teams in Washington, gave his teammates a pep talk last week, telling them they were playing selfishly, more for themselves than the team, and were feeling sorry for themselves about the players they lost from last year. Schlereth made a similar speech in 1997, showing the players his Washington Super Bowl ring, after two straight losses. The team didn't lose another game that year and won the first of two Super Bowl rings. Despite injuries to his running back corps, Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham said: "We'll run whoever we have left."

NFC East

Arizona, which goes to Dallas today, had lost 16 of 17 games to the Cowboys before upsetting them in last season's playoffs. "I don't think we'll ever forget that game," Cowboys coach Chan Gailey said. "Revenge or payback is not a war cry. But anybody who was in that locker room that game remembers what it felt like. It's one thing that still sticks in my craw." Cornerback Deion Sanders is supposed to make his long-awaited season debut for the Cowboys. The Philadelphia Eagles had a nightmarish week. They were blanked in Buffalo to drop to 0-17-1 on the road in their past 18 road games, and the wife of the team's public relations director, Karen Howard, was sentenced to a year in jail for her part in a fatal hit-and-run accident last year.

NFC Central

Da Coach returns to Chicago today, but Mike Ditka thinks it's time for the fans of Da Bears to get over his era. "I have a lot of great memories from Chicago and still have a lot of friends there. It will always be a special place for me. But you can't live in the past. I don't. [New Orleans] is my home now, the Saints are my team. I love this place and this team. The only way they'll get me out of here is to force me to leave." The Packers asked the league to have a bye this weekend because the final Brewers' games were scheduled to be played in Milwaukee's County Stadium. But a crane accident has pushed back the opening of the new stadium a year. Now the Packers wish the bye were later, but Lions coach Bobby Ross said he's happy to have the bye now because three players (Kevin Abrams, Dan Owens and Kevin O'Neill) on the physically unable to perform list will have an extra week to heal.

NFC West

Ricky Williams may not play in Chicago today against the Bears, but Saints quarterback Billy Joe Hobert is tired of being asked about Williams' condition. "I like Ricky. I'd like to have him play, but I'm so sick of answering that question. He's not a whole football team. I couldn't care less if he's in there or not, because we have excellent running backs on this team." When he heard that Dan Marino takes his offensive linemen out to dinner after good games, St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner said, "Well, maybe, it might just be to Burger King or something until I get his salary."

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