Clock is ticking on Bills' Bledsoe

ON THE NFL

Pro Football

August 22, 2004|By KEN MURRAY

As if the selection of J.P. Losman in the first round of April's draft weren't warning enough, Buffalo quarterback Drew Bledsoe gets a wakeup call whenever he shuffles into the pocket at Bills practices this summer.

It's a hand-held, mail-order, $49 timer that rings four seconds after Bledsoe gets the ball. In an attempt to condition Bledsoe to get passes off more quickly, new coach Mike Mularkey has conditioning coach Brad Roll hold the device during seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills.

Mularkey, who rehabilitated quarterbacks Tommy Maddox and Kordell Stewart with the Pittsburgh Steelers, doesn't take credit for the idea.

"I know other teams use it," he said. "There are sophisticated timers that are specifically made for that."

Bledsoe was sacked an NFL-high 49 times last season and put up the most anemic numbers of his 11-year career. His 2,860 passing yards was his lowest total of any season when he played at least 14 games, and his 11 touchdown passes were the fewest for any season when he played more than two games.

After the season, he admitted he had lost his sense of timing in the pocket.

"Sacks are never a good thing," Bills quarterback coach Sam Wyche said. "We have to do everything we can to protect Drew, but he has to do everything he can to avoid sacks and taking unnecessary hits. Getting rid of the ball just a second quicker can make all the difference in the world."

No show and tell

Preseason results mean next to nothing from a team perspective, but the Denver Broncos still have to be a little concerned. Through two exhibition games and six possessions, their first-team offense has produced two field goals, three interceptions, a punt and no touchdowns. Quarterback Jake Plummer is 8-for-19 for 74 yards and a passer rating of 13.8.

Players suggest it's because they haven't shown much of the offense they'll use in the regular season. Against Buffalo, the Broncos ran the same pass play out of the same formation eight times.

Sounds like another good reason to reduce the four-game exhibition schedule.

Stadium stuff

The Dallas Cowboys and the city of Arlington, Texas, have agreed to split the cost of a $650 million, 75,000-seat retractable-roof stadium. Arlington's City Council voted unanimously last week to put the stadium tax question on the Nov. 2 ballot. The Cowboys' lease at Texas Stadium, where they've played since 1971, expires in 2008.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced state officials will confer with Saints executives Sept. 1 on ways to keep the team in New Orleans past 2010, with the possibility of building a new stadium.

Blanco wants to renegotiate a 10-year, $186 million agreement by her predecessor, Gov. Mike Foster, in 2001, that gave the Saints cash guarantees and additional concession revenues from the Superdome.

But the state had to borrow $7.1 million from a business development program to make the $15 million payment this year, and faces another shortfall next year.

Eddie who?

Running back Chris Brown is off to a strong start as the Tennessee Titans' replacement for Eddie George. He rushed for 46 yards on six carries against Cleveland and drew some revealing praise from coach Jeff Fisher.

"Not only does he hit the hole quickly, but he also makes good decisions," Fisher said. "We blocked well for him, and he gets through small creases. He ran with power, he broke some tackles and when you can get there quickly, you're not just limited to one particular scheme."

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