The attention grabbers

Receivers can't help but stir controversy

Around the league

NFL Week

September 10, 2006|By Don Pierson | Don Pierson,Chicago Tribune

Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo says that just because his team's receivers aren't well known "doesn't mean we're unhappy with them." On the contrary, the Bears may be happy with them because they're unknown.

Former Super Bowl hero Deion Branch's contract squabble with the New England Patriots threatens the chemistry of the NFL's most successful "team-first" franchise.

His grievance against the Patriots for bad-faith negotiating is nothing like the treacherous action of Terrell Owens in Philadelphia last season, but the result could have a similarly demoralizing effect.

As a teammate of Branch's told The Boston Globe last week: "If this is how they treat a guy who's everything they say they want, what are they going to do to the rest of us?"

When told to make himself a deal, Branch got bigger offers from the Seattle Seahawks and the New York Jets, yet the Patriots apparently had no intention of trading him.

When the Bears take their nondescript group to Green Bay to face the Packers today, they will face a team that lost its former top receiver, Javon Walker, in a bitter contract dispute after Walker got hurt in last year's opener. He's now in Denver, replacing the Broncos' former unhappy No. 1 draft choice, receiver Ashley Lelie, who was traded to the Atlanta Falcons.

During the week, the Packers hosted Koren Robinson, the troubled former Seahawks No. 1 receiver who made the Pro Bowl last year in Minnesota, only to get arrested for DWI during training camp, forcing the Vikings to release him. The league is expected to suspend him for the year.

The Detroit Lions just cut Charles Rogers, their 2003 first-round draft pick, who caught only 36 passes in three seasons.

The Vikings scrambled for receivers after Seattle signed Nate Burleson. Last week, the Vikings picked up Todd Pinkston from Philadelphia after the Eagles traded for Donte' Stallworth, a former New Orleans Saints first-round draft pick, to replace Owens.

No wonder Angelo is content with his quiet little cadre of receivers.

Receiver worry is nothing new in the NFL. In 1972, psychiatrist Arnold J. Mandell spent the season with the San Diego Chargers and wrote a report on the behavior of players by position. Receivers are the prima donnas of their sport.

"The wide receiver is a very special human being," Mandell wrote. "He shares many features with actors and movie stars. He is narcissistic and vain, and basically a loner.

"Whereas the offensive linemen may hang around together [the center is particularly gregarious], the wide receiver often lives alone, dates alone and remains a bit of a mystery. ... Typically, the wide receiver doesn't mind getting hurt on the body, but he doesn't like his face to be touched - he's afraid of disfigurement. Essential, brilliant, vain and not too friendly, he's rarely a popular member of the team."

Number game

When receiver David Givens joined the Tennessee Titans from the Patriots in March, he tried to buy Tyrone Calico's No. 87, the number Givens wore for four seasons in New England.

"I offered him $10,000 at first," Givens said. "Then it was $20,000."

Calico said no and Givens took No. 89. After the Titans cut Calico on Sept. 2, Givens got his old number back free.

Reading material

The best book on the Bears-Packers series is Mudbaths and Bloodbaths by Gary D'Amato and Cliff Christl, but Green Bay fans as well and pro football fans in general will be happy to know that Instant Replay, the classic 1967 diary by former Packers guard Jerry Kramer, is back in print.

Other books out for the start of the season include Johnny U by Tom Callahan, the story of former Baltimore Colts great Johnny Unitas; and Steve Tasker's Tales from the Buffalo Bills.

Tasker recalls one of the favorite sayings repeated by coach Marv Levy: "If Michaelangelo had wanted to play it safe, he would have painted the floor of the Sistine Chapel."

Seahawks, beware

This could grab the attention of the Seahawks' Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander: STATS LLC notes that the past four Super Bowl losers were forced to weather the loss of at least one star player the next season.

In 2005, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb (groin) was sidelined for seven games. The season before, Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith played in only one game before suffering a season-ending broken leg. In 2003, Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon sat out all but seven games because of a shoulder injury. And in 2002, St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner was sidelined for nine games with hand and finger injuries.

Don Pierson writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article.

Today's TV games

Eagles@Texans

Time -- 1 p.m.

TV -- Chs. 45, 5

Line -- Eagles by 5 1/2

Last meeting -- The Eagles won, 35-17, at Philadelphia on Sept. 29, 2002.

Key stat -- The Eagles are 15-9 vs. AFC teams since 2000.

The buzz -- The Texans look like an expansion team all over again, and the Eagles will contend for the playoffs. It should be a simple tuneup for Donovan McNabb and Co.

Cowboys@Jaguars

Time -- 4:15 p.m.

TV -- Chs. 45, 5

Line -- Pick 'em

Last meeting -- The Cowboys won, 21-19, at Dallas on Nov. 24, 2002.

Key stat -- The Cowboys are an NFL-best 29-17 (.630) in road openers.

The buzz -- The Jaguars are out to prove that last year's 12-4 record wasn't a fluke. One game won't prove anything, but their loaded defensive line should control this one.

Colts@Giants

Time -- 8:15 p.m.

TV -- Chs. 11, 4

Line -- Colts by 3

Last meeting -- The Giants won, 44-27, at Indianapolis on Dec. 22, 2002.

Key stat -- Giants coach Tom Coughlin is 7-3 in openers.

The buzz -- It's the first time brothers have met as starting quarterbacks, but the running games may decide it.

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