When Dan Henning took over the Falcons last year and insisted upon a one-back offense that featured William Andrews, critics said the rookie coach had too much talent riding the bench in 6'1", 230-pound Gerald Riggs of Arizona State, the ninth player picked in the 1982 draft. It took a severe knee injury to Andrews two weeks ago for Riggs to get his shot. And he proved the critics right Sunday, carrying the ball 35 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta's 36-28 defeat of the Saints.
"I tried to do my best to ignore the fact that I was replacing William," Riggs said. "I don't like the way I managed to get the starting job, but those things happen. William and I talked a few times, and he told me not to listen to the people who were saying we couldn't do it without him. Somebody had to step in there and do the job. I just wish William and I could be together in the same backfield sometime."
Following San Diego's opener in Minnesota, tight end Kellen Winslow apparently followed through on his threat to retire. Winslow wanted the Chargers to renegotiate his $210,000 contract in the $700,000-per-year range, but the team hadn't obliged. So, after the Chargers routed the Vikings 42-13 (Winslow caught four passes for 33 yards), he told reporters he'd been near tears most of the afternoon. Then he dressed quickly and jumped ship, taking a flight to St. Louis, his birthplace, instead of the team plane back to San Diego. On his way out the locker room door. Winslow asked running back Pete Johnson, "Do you want to sell my jersey outside? Do you think anybody would want to buy it?"
"My second year here," said Gary Hogeboom, the new Dallas starting quarterback, "coach [Tom] Landry said, 'If I pronounce anybody's name wrong, just come and tell me.' He was calling me Hogenboom and sometimes Hogenbloom, so I said 'What the heck? I might as well give it a shot.' I told him, 'Coach, you pronounce my name Hoag-a-boom.' He said, 'Gary, when you become a starter, I'll learn how to pronounce your name.' "
The moment of truth came last week. At a press conference at which he was expected to announce who would be the Cowboy quarterback for Monday night's opener against the Rams, Landry was uncharacteristically nervous. First he said that Phil Pozderac starting at left tackle in place of Howard Richards was the only offensive change. Then he added, "In the quarterback area we've decided to go with Pozderac.... I mean, Hogenboom in this game." Said Hogeboom, "I've been called worse."
Landry says he's giving up. He'll go with Hogey or Hoag, which is what the players call Hogeboom. Or, Landry says, he may keep it simple and call him Gary.
Two years ago the Cowboys tipped their hands as to how sold they were on Hogeboom. Before the '82 season, Hogey, who was entering his third year and hadn't yet thrown a pass in an NFL game, was scheduled to make $53,500. In an unprecedented move, the Cowboys tore up his contract. He got a raise to $175,000 that year, $200,000 in '83, $225,000 this year and $247,500 in '85, his option year.
Bud Grant, who retired last January after 17 years as the Minnesota Vikings' head coach, was honored before Sunday's game in the Metrodome, which has a no-smoking rule. His final statement to the Viking fans? "Thank you for not smoking."
Tampa Bay Buccaneer coach John McKay had this to say on the eve of his ninth season in the NFL: "If we don't do well, Mr. C. [Buc owner Hugh Culverhouse] and I will sit down. If we stay healthy and don't do well, it would be time for somebody else."
Well, the Bucs didn't do well in their opener. In fact, their 34-14 loss to the Bears was a comedy of errors.
Theo Bell was the first Buc to touch the ball in the '84 season; he fumbled a punt and the Bears converted the turnover into a 29-yard field goal. Said McKay: "That's stupid. It's easy to catch a punt. I used to do it."
Buc quarterbacks Jack Thompson and Steve DeBerg combined for a team-record six interceptions—Thompson had four, DeBerg two—but the chief targets of McKay's wrath were his receivers, who dropped eight passes. He brought up the 16 contracts Culverhouse had renegotiated before the season and claimed all the Bucs did Sunday was "renegotiate their drops. They're being paid big money. Do they think it's being paid out of the goodness of our hearts?"
Franco Harris is still in the news, even if he isn't in the running for Jim Brown's alltime career rushing record. According to several NFL general managers, Bart Beier, Harris's agent, has offered him to practically every team in the league—cheap. Beier's pitch goes something like this: We'd like to get the $385,000 Franco was supposed to make this year, but we'll take less. How does $330,000 sound?
The Chicago Bears let Harris down easily. Said Walter Payton, who gained 61 yards in Sunday's opening-day 34-14 win against Tampa Bay and now trails Harris by just 264 yards and Brown by 626, "I really feel sorry for Franco because he's a competitor, and he's so close to reaching this milestone. For me, it would've been a challenge to catch him before he got those 300-some yards. That's what motivated me during my [off-season recovery from] surgery and the preseason. Him not being there, that puts a damper on it."
The Cleveland Browns made light of the situation. "Yes," said coach Sam Rutigliano, "we might consider signing Franco, but the first thing we'll do is find out if Jim Brown will come back and play for us. Then, we'd get Franco because we'd have Jim and Franco blocking for each other. If that didn't work, they could be the halftime entertainment and race each other at 40 yards."
Brown says of Harris: "See. Didn't I tell you he was through? The NFL finally heard what I was saying all last year."
One G.M. offers this view of the situation: "When it came right down to it, the record was meaningless—even to Franco. He put money ahead of the record."
Meanwhile, Franco is down but not defeated. "Can you imagine me and Pay-ton in the same backfield?" Harris asked. "Jim McMahon would call a handoff to Payton, and I'd say, 'No! No! I want the ball!' Or, if I was supposed to get it, Walter would say, 'Give it to me!' "
San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana has flipped over Jennifer Wallace, the blonde cowgirl in his Schick shaving commercial—and he's making no secret of it. As Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle noted in his column of Monday, Aug. 27, "The best show at the Golden Gate Theatre Thursday night was not La Cage Aux Folles on stage, but 49er star Joe Montana and his blonde date in the orchestra section, necking so furiously smoke was coming out of their ears. Every now and then the amorous lady would come up for air, give herself a shot of mouth spray and spritz Joe. The patrons in the immediate vicinity gave the sprightly couple a standing ovation."
Bum Bright, the new owner of the Cowboys, is also the chairman of the board of regents at Texas A & M. The other day, Tex Schramm, the Cowboys' president, was kidding Bright about the Aggies' relatively easy '84 schedule.
"What do you mean, Tex?" Bright said. We open against Texas, Iowa and Arkansas."
"I didn't know that," Schramm said. "Gee, I'm sorry."
"Yeah," said Bright. "That's Texas-El Paso, Iowa State and Arkansas State."
How do you handle New England's massive offensive line? Ask the Buffalo Bills, who lost to the Pats 21-17 Sunday.
•Buffalo inside linebacker Jim Haslett on John Hannah, the 6'3", 265-pound Patriot All-Pro guard: "You take a gun and shoot him before the game."
•Fred Smerlas, Buffalo's All-Pro nose tackle on Pete Brock, the Pats' 6'6", 270-pound center: "The biggest thing I try to do is lift him off the ground so he doesn't have that low center of gravity. But when a guy is as heavy as the front end of your car, he's kind of hard to lift."
Receiver James Lofton, when asked his initial reaction to new Packer head coach Forrest Gregg: "F.G."
This real-estate listing is making the rounds in Green Bay: "Over 5,000 square feet of luxury and comfort have embraced luminaries from the sports world, stars and statesmen, and 'just good friends' at the sprawling 5-bedroom, 4½-bath home of Bart and Cherry Starr. This exceptional property expresses quality in the individualistic style of the two popular owners, who have surrounded themselves with amenities that translate to social and recreational versatility.... You'll admire the tennis court, in-ground swimming pool with landscaped terracing, exercise room, paneled office.... A home for the discriminating buyer, who thinks of 'home' in a big way." They forgot to mention the sauna. Cost: $395,000.
Junior learned some lessons books can't teach.
Don't Do As I Did, Do As I Say
E.J. Junior still remembers the high he got from free-basing cocaine.
"Picture yourself on a roller coaster," says the St. Louis Cardinal linebacker. "Think of the feeling you get in your stomach and multiply that times five. The instant rush knocks most people to their knees. A day doesn't go by that I don't think about that feeling."
Junior, a former Alabama star who was the Cards' No. 1 pick in '81, was convicted of cocaine possession in February 1983, put on three years' probation and suspended for the preseason and first four regular-season games of '83.
"I'm thankful I got arrested," says Junior, 24. "I was killing myself."
In 1983 Junior spent the month of July in therapy at CareUnit in St. Louis, and he worked as a counselor there the first five months of 1984. He's now a drug counselor for the Cards, and he wants to become a doctor who specializes in drug and alcohol treatment.
Junior got an undergraduate degree from Alabama in 1981. He majored in public relations and was only 18 credits short of qualifying for a second major in civil engineering. To prepare himself for medical school he plans to take eight hours each of biology, organic chemistry and anatomy during the next two springs: probably at St. Louis University. He figures he can complete med school in nine years.
"Most doctors get their book learning before they have contact with patients," Junior says. "I've worked backward, as well as from the ground up. Cocaine abusers will be likely to trust me because I was one of them."
Which NFL teams will succeed and which will recede in '84? On the eve of the season, SI polled players from around the league and got the following responses*:
2. New Orleans
LIKELIEST TO FALL
Dallas (in a landslide)
NFC CHAMPS: Washington
AFC CHAMPS: L.A. Raiders
SUPER BOWL WINNER: Raiders
*Asked to predict what the season holds in store, Pittsburgh strong safety Ron Johnson answered, "Pain."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Dolphin QB Dan Marino, who missed most of the preseason with a broken right index finger, completed 21 of 28 passes for 311 yards and five TDs in a 35-17 win over Washington (page 14).
DEFENSE: Jet defensive end Mark Gastineau had four second-half sacks, one of which forced a fumble that produced a New York TD as his team rallied from a 7-7 halftime tie to beat the Colts 23-14.