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Original Issue


For those who live solely by the stat sheet, reports SI's Pat Putnam, the Doug Flutie NFL show opened and flopped in Tampa: one run for minus-one yard; one pass that flew over wide-open tight end Emery Moorehead in the Buccaneer end zone; two handoffs and two pitches to running backs, which netted Chicago just 13 yards. Not much, you say, for 2½ minutes' work against the worst defense in the NFL. Then why was the 5'9" Heisman Trophy winner from Boston College grinning in the locker room?

"I got my feet wet, I played," said Flutie, who was given the green light from coach Mike Ditka with 4½ minutes left in Chicago's 23-3 victory and the Bears on Tampa Bay's 17. "And I think I can play.

"One play I called wrong," said Flutie, who received help from the Chicago bench by hand signals that corresponded to a crib sheet of numbers attached to his armband. "I thought it was going to the right and it went left." Flutie went right and bounced out-of-bounds for a yard loss. While calling another play he left out a word and everyone in the huddle said, "Whoa!" Luckily, fullback Matt Suhey knew the correct call and filled in the missing blank.

And on the missed connection with Moorehead, which should have been an easy score from the five, Flutie said, "Frustrating. It was a play we ran 50,000 times at Boston College. I expected Moorehead to drag across, and he pulled up. I just overthrew him."

Discouraged? "No way," said Flutie. "When I went out there everyone was on my side. It was a good feeling." After all the turmoil that followed his signing, that was a big plus you'll never find on a stat sheet.

The decline of St. Louis quarterback Neil Lomax, benched last week after 52 straight games as the team's starter, has been a curious one. In 1984 Lomax had seven 300-yard passing games. In the 26 games since the start of the '85 season, he has had only one.

Past and present Cardinals say Lomax's problems begin with his fragile confidence. They say he is easily intimidated and rattled—to the point of calling plays in the huddle that don't exist.

Coach Gene Stallings believes Lomax is his own worst enemy. "He puts too much pressure on himself," says Stallings, who started Cliff Stoudt against the 49ers on Sunday. "He tries so hard to make things happen, and he winds up choking himself."

Lomax, whom the team is reportedly trying to trade, says, "I'm going to take this as a positive thing, a chance to sit back, reflect and look at things and ask what I can learn from this situation. I need to improve. I know that."

When they received word that coach Hank Bullough had been fired and replaced by Marv Levy, Bills players were smiling broadly in the locker room, exchanging high fives.

Quarterback Jim Kelly, who played all of nine games for Bullough, said, "Morale was at an alltime low. Hank had taken all the fun out of the game."

The players hated Bullough's collegiate-type approach to coaching—long meetings and practices. "We were all so tired out that come game time, we made mental mistakes out of sheer exhaustion," says Kelly.

"I'm sorry," Bullough said. "But I believe in giving a day's work for a day's pay. That didn't sit good with some players. But that's what I believe in."

Defensive players were upset by Bullough's interference with the signal-calling of defensive coordinator Herb Paterra and by the confusion it caused.

Kelly admits there is another reason he is relieved Bullough is gone. "I was asked to go to [owner] Ralph Wilson to tell him to get rid of Hank," Kelly says. "I'm not going to say whether coaches or players asked me. But I kept telling guys, 'Hey, I don't want to get in the position of being known as the kind of player who can get a head coach fired.' "

Quips and quotes from the world of pro football:

•Diana Ditka, wife of Bear coach Mike Ditka, on quarterback Jim McMahon: "I like Jim. My son looks just like him. He has the same hair, the same sunglasses and he talks to Mike the same way."

•L.A. Raider cornerback Lester Hayes, on what he thought about the big contract ($900,000 per year) given to quarterback Marc Wilson in 1983: "I'm not going to answer that. I don't want to play in Buffalo or Outer Mongolia next year."

•Anne Butler of CBS-TV was at Giants Stadium last week to do some feature work on the team. She asked general manager George Young to come to the press room for an interview. Young and Butler had never met, so neither knew what the other looked like. When the G.M. showed up, Butler was on the telephone. Asked Young, "Do you need me?"

"No," replied Butler. Twenty minutes later the CBS crew phoned Young's office, wanting to know why he hadn't shown up yet for the interview. "I was downstairs and couldn't find her," Young said.

Later, Butler was told that the man she had turned away was Young. "Oh," she said, "I thought he was the janitor."

Since releasing tight end Jimmie Giles three weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Bucs have had a hard time keeping a replacement healthy. The Bucs signed free agent Chris Faulkner. In his first practice Faulkner tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Next up was Jeff Spek, who was signed on Oct. 31. He must have thought he was a fortunate man—until he suffered a partial tear of his left knee's anterior cruciate ligament while covering a punt return in only his second game. (Jerry Bell, yet another Buc tight end, fractured his right ankle Sunday and is out for the season.)

Last Wednesday, Spek found himself undergoing arthroscopic surgery in a Tampa hospital. The only familiar face belonged to his wife, Melissa.

"There was a tremendous feeling of isolation, as if I was in a foreign land," says Spek, who will be sidelined the rest of the season. "Football toughens you up. You learn early not to depend on anybody else for support, only to depend on those closest to you. My wife is the only one who really knew how I felt."

Every week, the tattered business suit would turn up at Rayson Sports, on top of the heap of uniforms in the Chicago Bears' laundry bag. And every week, Rosie Ficarelli would have to add another patch. "I spent three hours each week with that suit," she says. "I finally went to Mr. Rayson and asked him, 'Why doesn't this gentleman get a new suit?' "

The navy blue suit belonged to Papa Bear George Halas. "It was his lucky suit," Rosie says. "How was I to know?"

Rayson Sports has cleaned and mended uniforms for almost all of the Chicago-area sports teams—professional, college and high school levels—since 1938. Rosie, who is 93 years old, has been a fixture at Rayson Sports for 46 years. So has her single-needle Union Special sewing machine. "It has never been repaired," she boasts. "I baby it. Oil it up good."

Early Monday morning the Bears' uniforms arrive with instructions for mending, alterations, applying numbers or nameplates. Dennis Gentry wants his pants shortened; Matt Suhey forever needs his jersey taken in an inch or so.

Though Rosie has severe arthritis in her hands, she has never failed to meet her Wednesday afternoon deadlines, even if it means working until midnight. "It's rush, rush, rush," says Rosie, who pins good-luck notes inside the jerseys of her favorite Bears, including Walter Payton's.

One day she solved the case of Payton's missing thigh pads. "I found in the washing machine some tiny, tiny pads with the number 34 on them," she says. "I was getting ready to throw them out, when the Bears called. You can't do that, they said. They're Walter's lucky pads—from his high school days."



OFFENSE: The Jets' Ken O'Brien completed 26 of 33 pass attempts, including a club-record 17 straight, for 322 yards and three touchdowns as New York defeated the Atlanta Falcons 28-14.

DEFENSE: San Diego's Jeff Dale intercepted two passes by the Broncos' John Elway—one in the end zone in the third quarter—and had four tackles and four assists as the Chargers upset Denver 9-3.