This time, Flutie won't be backup-stabber

ON THE NFL

Pro Football

August 25, 2002|By Ken Murray

The last time Doug Flutie lost his starting job, it divided a team and a city. That was two years ago in Buffalo, when the Bills decided to start quarterback Rob Johnson over Flutie.

The San Diego Chargers don't expect history to repeat itself. At least that was the indication last week after coach Marty Schottenheimer named second-year quarterback Drew Brees the starter ahead of Flutie, who's in his 18th pro season.

Chargers general manager John Butler said he doesn't expect any of the bitterness that accompanied the Flutie-Johnson vendetta to surface in San Diego. Why? Because he said Flutie has respect for Brees.

"When Doug's got respect for somebody and he feels like that person is going to help this football team win, then he's all for it," said Butler, who signed Flutie in Buffalo and again in San Diego. "In Buffalo, the situation was that the competition was on, but there also had to be a respect factor, and it wasn't there."

Schottenheimer made the decision after the first two preseason games. He said the race was too close to call, but he went with Brees, who is 23, because he has the greater upside. Flutie, whose starting record in the NFL is 35-25, will turn 40 in October.

Schottenheimer conceded there probably will be a time when he brings Flutie off the bench to spark the team.

"But as soon as that one's over, win lose or tie, we'll go back to Drew," Schottenheimer said. "The team needs to know who the guy is."

Flutie understands. "I support [the decision] 100 percent," he said. "I have full confidence in him to get the job done, and if the situation ever calls for it, I'll be ready. It sits well with me."

Schottenheimer hasn't started a quarterback as young as Brees since 1985, his first full season with the Cleveland Browns, when he went with 21-year-old Bernie Kosar.

A '60s kind of guy

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder didn't just assail the reputation of Ravens owner Art Modell in that recent Newsweek interview, he also went after Schottenheimer, saying it was a mistake to hire him a year ago.

"I made a ton of mistakes," Snyder said. "I listened to the media when they told me I needed a traditional football guy, an NFL guy, so I did that [by hiring Schottenheimer], and I got a 1960s football team. And 1960s football teams don't really do well these days. I guess that's putting it blunt. Is that too blunt?"

Schottenheimer declined to return the favor in San Diego.

Making them pay

Twice in a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers punter Todd Sauerbrun drove returner Ken-Yon Rambo to the ground with a punishing shoulder-first pop and then stood over him in a taunting pose. Panthers coach John Fox didn't appreciate the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the first one, but his teammates relished Sauerbrun's grit.

"I love the guy," said left tackle Todd Steussie. "I think he's like a linebacker in a kicker's body, although you could say he looks like a linebacker, too."

At 5 feet 10 and 211 pounds, Sauerbrun is stronger than most punters. But he also brings an attitude to the field. "This guy is running away with my punt and he's hurting my special teams," he said. "What am I supposed to do? I'm going to hurt the guy?"

Otto ailing

Hall of Fame center Jim Otto, who endured more than 40 operations as a result of his career with the Oakland Raiders, has taken medical leave as the team's special projects director to fight what he says is advanced prostate cancer.

"Normally, you have six months to live when you get [the state of prostate cancer] that I have," said Otto, 64. "But they're trying some new things at the UC Davis Medical Center and I'm going to try to help them."

Otto, who played in nine American Football League All-Star games and the first three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls, has received treatments for the past six weeks.

Preseason tally

It's only preseason and the numbers are meaningless, but neither Super Bowl quarterback has hit his stride yet. The New England Patriots' Tom Brady has generated just two field goals in 10 series over two games, throwing two interceptions in one game.

Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams produced just 10 points, six first downs and 166 yards in nine series through his first three games. No one is panicking in either camp.

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