Once again, Chandler looking out for No. 1



Chris Chandler has been down this pockmarked road before. He knows the view, where it leads and how it ends.

Chandler was the quarterback who preceded No. 1 pick Jeff George in Indianapolis. He was the quarterback who co-existed with No. 1 pick Vinny Testaverde briefly in Tampa Bay. He was the quarterback who arrived in Houston the same year the Oilers made Steve McNair the third pick in the draft.

Those three scenarios ended with Chandler's being traded twice and cut once.

Now, in his 14th NFL season and his sixth team, Chandler is the quarterback starting ahead of Michael Vick, this year's No. 1 draft pick, on the Atlanta Falcons.

Until last Sunday, it was a relatively uneventful ride. But it got bumpy pretty quickly when some fans in the Falcons' family section at the Georgia Dome began cheering for Chandler to get hurt so Vick could get into the game. When Chandler's wife, Diane, tried to dissuade those fans from the crude conduct, she had a container thrown at her. Eventually, security had to restore order off the field in what became a 24-10 loss to New England.

Because these were fans who either were friends or family of players, Atlanta coach Dan Reeves felt compelled to speak to the players a day later about behavior at games. Chandler said he recommended that his wife not attend any more games, although he doesn't expect her to follow the advice.

"She's pretty tough, has a will of her own. It would be tough to keep her away," Chandler said. "It's not real fun for me to know [my family] is being hassled for no reason at all. I guarantee you [my daughters] won't be there."

As fate would have it, Chandler, 36, was hurt (ribs) and Vick (2-for-9 for 56 yards) did play. Chandler is listed as questionable for today's home game against the Dallas Cowboys, and Vick may get his first NFL start.

Chandler, who led the Falcons to the Super Bowl in the 1998 season, ranks fourth in the NFC in passer efficiency and appears frustrated by his lack of support.

"It's pretty obvious ... the level of respect I'm probably going to get is about what I've been getting," he said. "I'm going to continue to play well and just kind of ignore what's going on around me."

Vick on the issue: "It's kind of annoying sometimes when they start chanting, `We want Vick! We want Vick!' while Chris is out there. I love my fans. I love all of the fans who love Michael Vick. ... It's not embarrassing, I just wish they wouldn't do it. I just don't want to hear it. Like I said before, it's not like I can run up there and make them all shut up."

Class of '99 revisited

When the Philadelphia Eagles went shopping for a quarterback with the second pick in the 1999 draft, they had Donovan McNabb of Syracuse and Daunte Culpepper of Central Florida rated pretty even. They chose McNabb because they felt he would handle the pressure of playing in Philadelphia better.

"Daunte came from a smaller school," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He went into a situation [in Minnesota] where there was a veteran quarterback in place that he was able to learn from. [Minneapolis] is a big city, but it's not a huge metropolis. I think it was a good fit for him.

"I think Donovan was exposed to playing against bigger schools and maybe a bigger media spotlight than Daunte. I think that helped him adjust here."

Culpepper went to the Pro Bowl last season after throwing 33 touchdown passes, and McNabb went as an alternate. Today, they square off when the Vikings visit Philadelphia, and the Eagles get a chance to see firsthand what might have been.

Getting it right

Three days after Kris Brown missed four field goals in Pittsburgh's 13-10 loss to the Ravens, Steelers coach Bill Cowher sent Brown, holder (and punter) Josh Miller and snapper Mike Schneck to Heinz Field by themselves to redress the issue. Brown reportedly attempted 16 field goals and hit all 16, the longest from 48 yards.

"I think it's a good idea to kick in some of the conditions," said Brown, who plans to repeat the trip once each week.

Gearing up

It only gets tougher from here on out for the Indianapolis Colts, who are 4-3 heading into today's game against Miami. The Colts' four victories came against teams with a combined record of 9-21. Of those four, only the New York Jets have a winning record.

Of the Colts' past nine opponents, only one team has a losing record (Atlanta, 3-4). The combined record of their remaining opponents is 42-24, with December road trips to Baltimore, Miami and St. Louis.

"We're up against death row right now," said Colts linebacker Mike Peterson. "If you want to be a prime-time player, this is what you want. I'm ready. I can't wait."

Looking for answers

After being demoted in Week 2 and winning his job back in Week 5, Detroit quarterback Charlie Batch appears to be on borrowed time. Last week in San Francisco, Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg gave rookie Mike McMahon the third series of each half for his first regular-season action.

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