AFC notebook

November 28, 1999|By Vito Stellino

East

Former Ravens tight end Eric Green started practicing again last week with the New York Jets after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and missing three games. Green, who has caught four passes after signing a four-year, $7.5 million deal, disputes the notion that he's a bust. "All of a sudden I come to the Jets and I'm not a good athlete and I can't catch the ball. When I talk to my buddies back home, I tell them, `I must have [ticked] somebody off that I don't know about.' " That somebody is probably coach Bill Parcells, who replied, "That stuff [complaining] doesn't affect me. I think if you can help us win, we'll use you." The Indianapolis Colts, noting that the Arizona Cardinals were a surprise team last year and have a losing record this year, aren't talking about the future. They want to win now. "When you put yourself in a position like we are now, why think about next year?" coach Jim Mora said. Doug Flutie, who quarterbacks the Bills against the New England Patriots today in Buffalo, is 91-15 at home in college, the United States Football League, the NFL and the Canadian Football League New England's Drew Bledsoe insists there's nothing wrong with his arm. He says he's just in a slump after throwing eight interceptions and three touchdown passes in losses to the Jets and Miami Dolphins. Miami's Jimmy Johnson is sticking with Dan Marino even though he struggled on Thanksgiving.

Central

The Cincinnati Bengals, who have lost 10 or more games six times in the 1990s, can set a dubious record today in Pittsburgh. A loss would be their 107th of the 1990s, breaking Tampa Bay's record of 106 in the 1980s, although the Buccaneers played fewer games because of two strikes in the 1980s. There's speculation that Steelers coach Bill Cowher may become the latest coach to resign and take a seat in the broadcast booth. He could sit out for a year or two in search of a job where he can run the whole show. Cowher declined to comment on the reports last week, but that just fueled the rumors even more. It may be that Cowher's intense style works in one place only for a few years; he's now in his eighth year in Pittsburgh. Former Raven Orlando Brown of Cleveland still talks a better game than he plays. He gave up three sacks to Jevon Kearse in the first Browns-Tennessee Titans game, but said he was affected by the crowd noise and the silent snap count. "I guess if I have a good game there [in Cleveland], he can't say the crowd helped me out," Kearse said. The Jacksonville Jaguars' Tom Coughlin has a 44-30 record as coach, but if you take away his nine wins over owner Art Modell's team in Cleveland and Baltimore, he's 35-30.

West

For the second week in a row, Oakland owner Al Davis is playing an AFC West team whose coach left the Raiders on strained terms. Monday night, it was the Denver Broncos' Mike Shanahan, who was fired by Davis. This week, it's the Kansas City Chiefs' Gunther Cunningham, who was an assistant from 1991 to 1994 but didn't leave on the best of terms. But Cunningham was downplaying the rivalry last week. "I like Mr. Davis," he said with a straight face. "We were just two stubborn people working together who had to go their separate ways." He added, "I saw him at the Super Bowl and he congratulated me on getting a head coaching job. He said, `You're probably not going to give me any credit,' and I said, `No, Al, that's not true.' I learned a lot of football from him." Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon plays two of his last six games against Kansas City's Elvis Grbac, a player the Chiefs decided to go with over him. Gannon, though, backed Grbac last year when there was some sentiment he should be the quarterback. "I just felt that wasn't something [a quarterback controversy] that was going to help the football team at the time," he said. The Seattle Seahawks are 8-2 under new coach Mike Holmgren, but he's trying to keep their heads level. "I told them we haven't done anything yet. There are so many instances and historical references you can point to where teams all of a sudden fumble around and stumble around because they forgot what got them there." The San Diego Chargers have had a five-game losing streak for three straight years.

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