He didn't wreck Rams' season after all

On The NFL

February 06, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Rodney Harrison thinks he deserves a thank you from the St. Louis Rams.

Not that he expects to get one.

In fact, he was public enemy No. 1 in St. Louis in August.

He is the San Diego Chargers safety who crashed into the back of Trent Green's legs, ending the quarterback's season and giving Kurt Warner a chance to enjoy a storybook year.

At the time, though, the Rams thought Harrison had ruined their season.

"After I hit him, I turned my back and I saw a bunch of guys run up and start yelling at me. Marshall Faulk in particular," Harrison said. "Marshall yelled, `Rodney, what are you doing? What are you doing?' I was like, `What?' Then I saw Trent grabbing his knee and I saw their whole team, their whole coaching staff, and everybody yelling and screaming at me.

"The Rams were mad, and they were ticked off at me. Well, I say, `If Marshall Faulk would have blocked me, it would have never happened.' So don't yell and scream at me. Yell and scream at the guy who missed the block."

Harrison concedes he felt horrible once he found out how serious Green's knee injury was.

Then he started following the Rams' Super Bowl season and he decided that it was meant to be.

"Not trying to take anything away from Trent Green, but sometimes things are just meant to happen," Harrison said. "And you best believe -- and I'm not saying anything bad against Trent -- but no way would they be where they're at now if this didn't happen."

Nobody knows how the Rams would have fared with Green. He was 28-for-32 in the preseason before Harrison hit him. New coach Mike Martz wants to keep him next year as Warner's backup unless he gets a trade offer for Green he can't turn down.

Meanwhile, Harrison, who said he should be one of the Rams' co-Most Valuable Players said: "They should call me and say, `Thank you.' Because all I can say now is, `Hey, it worked out fine for them.' "

The Warner saga

Two more Warner stories:

His boss at the store where he stocked shelves, David Jensen, said that when Warner would finish stocking shelves, he'd bag groceries and carry them to the car for elderly customers.

"He was real polite to our customers, did everything he was told and he didn't [complain] about anything. He just went out and did his job," he said.

Late at night, when all the work was done, he'd throw a roll of paper towels down the aisle to Jensen, who played wide receiver in high school.

Another story from his wife, Brenda, that she told to Sports Illustrated: She said they had a "nasty fight" the day Warner was named to the Pro Bowl, and she was running some errands when she called home and a friend who was baby-sitting said some flowers had been delivered to the house.

"I figured they were from Georgia [Frontiere, the Rams' owner] because she's always sending them to Kurt, but there were 13 red roses, so Kim [Brenda's friend] opened the card and read it to me. It was Kurt, telling me he'd made the Pro Bowl. `This is a great day for me, but it would mean nothing without you to share it,' " she said.

Warner is too good to be true.

Copycats

A year ago, the Rams urged -- or demanded -- that coach Dick Vermeil fire offensive coordinator Jerry Rhome. Martz was hired, and they won a Super Bowl.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers apparently have decided to do the same thing. They urged -- or demanded -- that coach Tony Dungy fire offensive coordinator Mike Shula, a move Dungy didn't support. Dungy is loyal to his assistants and had kept the same staff for four years.

Shula took blame for the Bucs' anemic offense, which never ranked higher than 22nd in his four years with the team, although Dungy's conservative philosophy probably contributed to its problems.

The unfortunate thing is that Shula was in Hawaii with the Bucs staff coaching the NFC team in the Pro Bowl when the owners followed through on their decision. It was a long trip to get fired.

"The timing was tough," Dungy said. "But we felt it was best for him to get a chance to get going and for us to get a chance to get going."

Now all the Bucs have to do is find another Martz.

Second chance

One measuring stick of Shula's coaching will be whether quarterback Trent Dilfer revives his career now that he's about to leave Tampa Bay as a free agent.

The Bucs declined to pay him a $4.5 million bonus to exercise a two-year extension of his contract after he lost the starting job to Shaun King.

Dilfer said he was hampered by Dungy and Shula's philosophy of trying to play mistake-free. "That evolved into playing not to lose," said his agent, Mike Sullivan.

Sullivan said that Dilfer ranked fourth in win-loss record (25-17), touchdown passes to interceptions ratio (1.43 to 1), and touchdown passes (53) among quarterbacks who were primary starters the past three years.

Warrick's No. 1

You can pencil in wide receiver Peter Warrick as the likely first pick in this year's draft.

The Cleveland Browns, who have the top pick, say they won't hold it against him that he was arrested and accused of paying $21.40 for $412.38 worth of clothing last year.

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