Bad behavior on the rise

ON THE NFL

September 29, 2002|By Ken Murray

The NFL is awash in passing offense and petulant behavior this season. From Rich Gannon's 64 pass-athon to Dwayne Rudd's helmet-throwing folly, it's been a league of extremes over the first three weeks.

Unfortunately, petulant behavior seems to be winning. At the least, it has put a stain on today's athlete. Consider that in the space of three days last week, all of the following took place:

Terrell Owens, a Pro Bowl receiver with the San Francisco 49ers, renewed his diatribe against coach Steve Mariucci, saying the 49ers lacked "killer instinct" because they did not try to run up the score in a 20-10 win over the Washington Redskins last Sunday.

Keyshawn Johnson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a two-time Pro Bowl receiver, got in the face of Bucs coach Jon Gruden because he was not on the field for a critical play late in Monday night's win over the St. Louis Rams and the two had a heated exchange.

Randy Moss, a three-time Pro Bowl selection with the Minnesota Vikings, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with careless driving and failure to obey a traffic control officer -- both misdemeanors -- after he allegedly pushed a traffic safety agent in Minneapolis a half-block with his 2002 Lexus. Moss reportedly was attempting to make an illegal turn when the incident occurred.

The bottom line in these random acts of stupidity is not that the more Pro Bowls one is invited to, the worse the behavior. No, it's the disconcerting lack of regard for authority exhibited by players at the top of their profession.

Owens wanted to stick it to the Redskins even though 17 49ers felt the effects of a virus and Mariucci merely wanted to get the game over with before losing any more players. Johnson felt demeaned because Keenan McCardell, a consummate pro, was on the field instead of him for a key play. Moss, who on Sunday had a sideline incident with quarterback Daunte Culpepper, cried crocodile tears for television on Wednesday as a seeming victim, but offered no remorse for allegedly knocking the traffic safety agent to the road.

Owens didn't back off his inane position a few days later. Johnson said you can expect more of the same from he and Gruden. And while Moss reportedly was fined approximately $45,000 by the Vikings, he will play -- and start -- tonight against Seattle.

The NFL appears to be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to aberrant behavior from its stars, as Kansas City Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil acknowledged when he spoke of Johnson's confrontation with Gruden.

"I don't think there's any room for it in football," Vermeil said. "I'd fire his [butt] if I could, but you're probably paying him too much money and the salary cap keeps him there."

Safe for now

Despite a 2-17 record as coach of the Detroit Lions, Marty Mornhinweg isn't about to be fired. Lions owner William Clay Ford met briefly with the team and coaching staff on Monday and said that Mornhinweg would remain coach for some time. When Ford did not make himself available to the media, it was left to players to address the issue.

"There's just been so much talk about Marty not being here," said defensive end Robert Porcher. "To hear the head man come up and endorse his head coach, that should take some pressure off of him and really let us get back to the task at hand and win some games."

Mornhinweg, whose team has surrendered a league-high 117 points in three losses, declined to talk about Ford's endorsement. "Regarding myself, it's unimportant," he said. "I told you guys that before, and I'm not going to go there."

Airing it out

The Tennessee Titans figure they know what's coming when they visit the Oakland Raiders today -- the no-huddle offense. That's because the Cleveland Browns scored all three of their offensive touchdowns last week against Tennessee in the no-huddle. Last year, Titans' opponents lined up in three-wide-receiver sets 43 percent of the time.

Said safety Lance Schulters: "Let me put it like this. If I was their offensive coordinator and I'm looking at us, at what we did Sunday, I run no huddle all day. I throw it 60, 70 times. I throw it until we stop it."

Not in Carter's corner

For the first time since he chose Quincy Carter in the second round of the 2001 draft, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is backpedaling on the second-year quarterback. Jones isn't unhappy with Carter, but said he had not lived up to expectations of being a multi-threat in the manner of Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb or Atlanta's Michael Vick.

"I am right in the middle on Quincy," Jones said. "I don't know if Quincy will evolve into the kind of productive player like some of the mobile quarterbacks you are seeing. That's why we signed Chad Hutchinson, to give us another opportunity to have skill and mobility."

Jones gave Hutchinson a $3.1 million signing bonus last year with the idea of competing for the starting job in 2003. That timetable could be moving up.

Winning converts

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