NFC notebook

January 02, 2000|By Vito Stellino

East

Tiki Barber of the Giants said his teammates aren't working hard enough. "I'm there until 6 p.m. a lot of nights studying tape or looking at opponents' tendencies. All the backs are there and some of the linemen do it, but I don't see a lot of guys doing that. It empties out in our place pretty quick. This is our job, our livelihood," he said. He declined to name specific players. "If guys take offense at what I'm saying, then I'm talking to them." Arizona's Rob Moore also had a message for his teammates, saying they need to grow closer over the summer. "Teams that win do things together, offensively and defensively. As a team, we've got to realize that the off-season not only is a time to heal up, but also a time to find a way to get more camaraderie and get guys more involved year around." The Cowboys have lost seven straight road games and have had second-half leads in five of them. George Teague said: "If you can't win on the road, you can't win championships." If the Cowboys beat the Giants today, they'll play a road playoff game next week. Duce Staley was named the Eagles' MVP for the second straight year. He has 1,229 rushing yards, fifth best in club history. Brian Mitchell of the Redskins broke Mel Gray's NFL record for combined kickoff and punt return yardage last week.

Central

LeRoy Butler of the Packers said after last week's loss to the Buccaneers that the team isn't tough enough. "We have too many [wimps] on our team. It just showed today. We're not tough. Tough teams get to the playoffs. The second half showed some guys were fighting and some weren't. That's the only thing that disappoints me. We don't have any toughness. It's something we always used to have. If you're one of those guys, we're going to weed you out and get your [butts] out of here." The Bucs said they were chasing the Packers for a long time. "That was Tony's [coach Tony Dungy] whole cry, that we've got to chase the Packers, chase down the Packers. We had an opportunity today to bury them, and we threw them in the grave," Warren Sapp said. Blake Brockermeyer, who played against the Rams twice a year when he was in Carolina, said he is amazed by the Rams' turnaround after the Bears lost in St. Louis, 34-12, last week. "You go from the worst team in the league to the best, in my opinion. They were just awful last year. You used to just chalk that up [a game against St. Louis] as a win," he said. Lions coach Bobby Ross apologized on Christmas Day for his team's lackluster showing in a loss to Denver, but he wasn't apologizing when they backed into the playoffs last week, even though they've lost three straight. "I personally don't feel like we backed into it," Ross said. "There are four teams out of six divisions that are leading their divisions, and we've beaten every one. Yeah, we're on a little bit of a downward spiral. We can correct that very quickly." After Randy Moss threw a touchdown pass for the Vikings last week, he said: "In a couple of years, I could be as accurate as any quarterback in the league. It takes a lot of hard work and practice, but I'm serious."

West

St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil, who breaks into tears when he gets his utility bill, is likely to be weepy today when he returns to Philadelphia, where he's still a hero because he took the Eagles to their only Super Bowl in 1981. His billboards endorsing a regional health-care provider still dot the downtown area. Vermeil is trying to downplay this visit, which is a meaningless game for the Rams. "I'd just as soon not go there," he said. "I went there last year and had my rear end handed to me." New Orleans rookie Ricky Williams needs 123 yards in the season finale against Carolina to reach the 1,000 mark. It's a far cry from the 1,600 he needs for the big bonus money to kick in, but coach Mike Ditka said it's important for him to get 1,000. "It would be important because here's a guy that missed six or eight games -- [four] games totally and never really played healthy all year." Jerry Rice wants to stay in San Francisco, although it'll be difficult for the 49ers to keep him because they need to rebuild and start shedding some big contracts. "I feel like I deserve the chance to come back and help turn this around," he said. Bill Walsh, who may or may not be back as the general manager, said Rice would have to do a new deal with a pay cut in lieu of incentives. The Falcons' porous run defense has give up 51 runs of 10 of more yards this year. To have a chance to make the playoffs, the Panthers may need the Giants and Cowboys to play to a tie. The last tie in the NFL was in 1997.

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