They Even Played Football
A week in the life of the Patriots: Lawyers for the former owner took the depositions of witnesses in the owner's suit against the NFL; lawyers for the current majority owner wrangled for a deadline extension on a $38 million payment owed to the current minority owner; lawyers for a former beat writer covering the Patriots prepared for a sexual-harassment trial; New England's new CEO worked to engineer an out-of-court settlement of a dispute between the Foxboro Stadium owners and the team; some coaches and front office staffers fretted about losing their jobs if yet another owner is brought in; turf experts rushed to install a new grass field because the grass laid last spring at Foxboro was dying; the ticket department worried that the stadium might not be half filled on Sunday; and, oh, yeah, the players prepared to play a football game.
"The adversity is always there," said coach Dick MacPherson last week, "but who's better suited to handle it than this team? We're pretty experienced at it."
New England is 3-8 after losing 28-21 to the Jets. Looking every bit like the 1990 Pats, who went 1-15, they dug themselves a 21-0 hole. But these aren't the '90 Pats, and they showed it during 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, when they scored three touchdowns to tie the game. After New York went ahead 28-21 with 57 seconds left, New England drove all the way to the Jets' one before rookie running back Jon Vaughn was stopped for no gain on the game's final play.
In each of the last four weeks the Patriots have had a chance to win or tie a game with less than two minutes to play and have come up short. "I'll die again tonight," said quarterback Hugh Millen. "Then I'll watch the sun come up again."
Of course, these Pats aren't the '85 Pats, who lost to the Bears in Super Bowl XX, either, but they've got spunk. They fight to win, and they're fun to watch. The players seem to be able to shut out the off-field negatives and play all-out, MacPherson-style football. And they care. "Guys were crying after the game," said nosetackle Fred Smerlas on Sunday.
But all this will count for naught if some new owner with a big broom comes in this winter and sweeps out the current administration. "To do something like that would take a very crazy man," said Vaughn. Study your Patriot history, Jon.
Deion's Difficult Decision
The Atlanta Braves have put Deion Sanders on their 40-man roster with the intention, says general manager John Schuerholz, of doing "all we can to convince him to play baseball full time. We think he can be one of the real dynamic players in the game, but at some point—and soon—he needs to devote his full time to baseball."
It sounds more and more as if Sanders, a cornerback for the Falcons, might make baseball his priority sport in 1992. "We'll discuss it after the Falcons' season," says Sanders's attorney, Eugene Parker. "A lot will depend on what the Braves have in mind for him."
Players: Yes on AIDS Testing
Last week SI asked 101 players: Should NFL players be subject to a mandatory AIDS test each year? Yes, they said, and rather emphatically. Sixty-one players favored a mandatory test, 27 opposed it and 13 were undecided or had no opinion. "I don't have a problem with it," says Falcon tackle Mike Kenn, president of the NFL Players Association. "In fact, I think every person in the country, maybe on earth, should be tested for AIDS. It should be like taxes." Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is considering the implementation of a voluntary AIDS testing program.
Defensive end Aundray Bruce, who has been a bust since joining the Falcons as the first pick of the 1988 draft, had his uniform number changed from 93 to 83 before Sunday's game against the Bucs and played tight end, wide receiver, defensive end and linebacker in Atlanta's 43-7 victory. Bruce, who is being tried at various positions in the hope he will play one well enough to help the 6-5 Falcons get into the playoffs, now wants to line up at tight end full time. "I want to catch that rock," says Bruce, who dropped the only rock thrown his way against Tampa Bay, a short pass late in the fourth quarter....
The Vikings outrushed the Packers 138 yards to zero in the second half of Minnesota's 35-21 victory....
In the end, the league gave Steeler guard Terry Long every chance to prove his claim that his testosterone level was naturally high and thus that his positive steroid test result in the preseason was invalid. But because his summer test was higher than previous and subsequent tests, the NFL last week rightfully followed through with a four-week suspension of Long.
Game of the Week
Denver at Seattle, Sunday. It's late November, and the race for the AFC West title isthisclose, but a win by the Broncos (8-3) could put them in commanding position to take the division title. The Chiefs (7-4) play four of their last five games on the road, finishing with away games against the 49ers and the Raiders. The Raiders (7-4) close against three teams—the Bills, the Saints and the Chiefs—who are certain to reach the postseason. But the Broncos don't play a winning team in the last five weeks.
The End Zone
When the Rams were preparing last week to meet Detroit and its quick, darting running back Barry Sanders, Los Angeles defensive line coach John Teerlinck recalled how Rocky Balboa had chased a chicken to train for the quickness of Apollo Creed in Rocky. So a chicken was brought to Thursday's practice to give the Ram defenders a chance to simulate chasing Sanders. One problem: When the chicken was placed in front of the players, it didn't move. "It's a laid-back California chicken," theorized defensive tackle Alvin Wright."
Adversity didn't keep the Patriots from hanging in there against Al Toon and the Jets.
JOE PATRONITE/ALLSPORT USA
Coryatt was an eyeful for Bushofsky, even before he fielded punts during practice.
In the last eight years, Maryland has produced five quarterbacks who are playing in the NFL, including three who started in Sunday's games. The rest of the ACC combined has four alumni quarterbacks on active NFL rosters.
"Maryland has had two terrific offensive-minded coaches in recent years in Bobby Ross and Joe Krivak," says Bengal signal caller Boomer Esiason, class of '83. "They emphasized teaching the position in a prostyle offense. Plus they taught you to really understand defenses."
The only Terp quarterback of late not to make the jump to the NFL is Dan Henning, the son of the Chargers' coach. Here's the honor roll of Maryland quarterbacks now in the league:
Not many things make an old scout do a double take, but last week on a practice field at Texas A&M, Colt player personnel director Jack Bushofsky saw something his eyes, at first, did not believe. There was 6'3", 243-pound Aggie linebacker Quentin Coryatt fielding punts during a break in practice. Bushofsky had just spent seven hours watching tapes of A&M's every down this season and had been wowed by what he saw of Coryatt. So he sidled up to Aggie coach R.C. Slocum and asked what was going on. "He just likes to stay involved in everything," said Slocum.
Such are the nuggets of information Bushofsky will need on April 26, when he may well be the most important man participating in the NFL draft. The Colts (1-10) are struggling through another inept season, but they will have two of the top handful of first-round picks—their own as well as the 2-9 Bucs' (from Tampa Bay's 1990 trade for Indy quarterback Chris Chandler)—plus a high second-round selection.
Colt general manager Jim Irsay has the final say on whom Indianapolis selects, but he relies heavily on Bushofsky's input. "If you're a competitor, then you cherish the opportunity to make crucial decisions like these," says Bushofsky, 54, who has played, coached or scouted football his entire adult life. "I'm going to have a big effect on which way we go in this draft, and this is a crucial draft for us."
Although Bushofsky won't comment on the Colts' specific needs, they likely will use their first couple of choices to acquire offensive linemen or defensive front seven players. Bushofsky's goal this year is to familiarize himself with the top 50 players available, and last week he darted through Texas to get a read on a few prospects. His itinerary:
On Tuesday he visited the University of Houston before making the 95-mile drive to College Station, where he spent Wednesday at Texas A&M. A 5:15 a.m. wake-up call on Thursday started him on a 100-mile drive to Waco for a day at Baylor. Late that day he drove the 100 miles to Austin, where he spent Friday at the University of Texas and stayed over on Saturday to watch the Longhorns play TCU.
Draft day is still five months away, but Bushofsky's draft clock is ticking. "I feel good about the week, because I got the Southwest Conference done," he says. "I'm not going to say I won't have sweaty palms, but in this business you make the pick, put your eyes up to heaven and hope you've made the right decision."
San Diego St. student