THE COMEBACK KIDS
That wise philosopher John Belushi once said, "It ain't over
till we say it's over," which brings to mind three comeback
stories from the week that was.
Don Beebe. After watching Beebe, a Packers wideout, get knocked
around, then knocked silly in the first half of Green Bay's game
on Sunday against the Lions, and then seeing him outrun two
defensive backs on a 65-yard touchdown pass play in the third
quarter, the question is, Why did this guy have to beg for a job
in the off-season?
Aside from quarterback Brett Favre, who threw four touchdown
passes, Beebe probably had the biggest impact in the Pack's
28-18 win. "I'm having more fun than I've ever had in football,"
said the 31-year-old Beebe. His four-catch, 106-yard game
against Detroit raised his season totals to 25 receptions for
494 yards and three touchdowns.
In six seasons with the Bills the 5'11", 183-pound Beebe played
in three Super Bowls and, in 1994, caught a career-high 40
passes. He signed as a free agent with the expansion Panthers
before the next season but was released after making only 14
catches that year. Last spring he worked out for the Packers and
was signed on April Fools' Day.
With the Packers' receiving corps depleted by injuries, Beebe,
who was slated to be a backup, has found a home in the Green Bay
starting lineup. "He's the fastest guy I've ever played with,"
Favre says. "I love throwing to him."
The Lambeau Field crowd loves cheering for him. After Sunday's
game the fans chanted Beebe's name. His neck hurt, and he had a
nasty welt over his right eye from his first-half collisions,
but that didn't seem to matter. And he didn't mind it when
someone suggested that no matter what he accomplishes with the
Packers, he will be remembered best as the man who chased down
and slapped the ball away from Cowboys defensive tackle Leon
Lett as Lett was romping for an apparent touchdown in Super Bowl
XXVII. "Good," Beebe said. "Nine out of 10 guys who play this
game aren't remembered for anything, and I'd be happy to be
remembered for a positive play. We were down 52-17, and I wasn't
giving up. I think it shows what kind of player and person I am."
Joe Nash. A Seahawks defensive tackle who last season set the
club record for most games played (210, in 14 years with
Seattle), Nash had hoped to return to the NFL for one more
season. But he went unsigned on the free-agent market and was
home in Wellesley, Mass., when NFL camps opened. His career, it
seemed certain, was over. In fact, on the morning of Oct. 29, he
went to Boston College High, his alma mater, to donate about 15
pairs of unused football shoes to the school's team.
Hours later the phone rang at Nash's house. Seattle defensive
tackle Glenn Montgomery had suffered a season-ending knee
injury, and the Seahawks wanted the 36-year-old Nash to rejoin
Nash had only one assisted tackle in Sunday's game against the
Oilers at the Kingdome, but he also passed out a piece of advice
that led to the Seahawks' 23-16 victory. Early in the fourth
quarter Seattle linebacker Michael McCrary remarked that he had
come close to blocking an Al Del Greco field goal. "Next time,"
Nash told McCrary, "don't jump at the ball. Keep running to cut
down the angle."
In the closing seconds of a 16-16 game, McCrary, using the
technique Nash had recommended, blocked Del Greco's 37-yard
field goal attempt, picked up the ball and lateraled it to
safety Robert Blackmon, who ran 61 yards for the winning score.
Nate Odomes. A two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, Odomes played on
the Bills' four Super Bowl teams before turning free agent and
accepting a four-year, $8.4 million contract with the Seahawks
in February 1994. However, shortly after signing, he wrecked his
right knee in a charity basketball game, which caused him to
miss the '94 season. A year later he tore the same ligament and
missed the '95 season as well.
Without ever playing a game for Seattle, the 31-year-old Odomes
was released. He signed with the Falcons in September. On Sunday
he was called on to replace the struggling Lenny
McGill--Odomes's first action since Super Bowl XXVIII in January
1994--and he responded with six tackles and a pass deflection as
Atlanta won for the first time this season, 20-17.
"I started having flashbacks and remembering things my body used
to do before I got hurt," Odomes said after the game. "Right
now, it's just a matter of getting the footwork back, and then I
think I'll be back. I feel the instincts returning."
THE UNDERSTUDY PAYS OFF
The Browns paid wideout Andre Rison $5.7 million last year, and
the Jaguars are paying $2 million for his services this season.
But for a total of $2.85 million, Keenan McCardell, Rison's
lesser-known teammate in Cleveland and now in Jacksonville, has
not only been the better bargain but also the better performer
McCardell, who had 1996 NFL single-game highs for receptions
(16) and receiving yards (232) during a 17-14 loss to the Rams
on Oct. 20, leads the Jaguars with 55 catches. Not bad for a
player who spent his first four years in the league trying to
find a home. A 12th-round draft pick of the Redskins from UNLV
in 1991, he floated as a free agent to the Browns in '92, then
to the Bears' practice squad in '93 and back to the Browns'
active roster later that season. Stuck behind the bigger and
faster Derrick Alexander, McCardell bided his time until
Cleveland rewarded him with the third receiver's job early last
season. He was signed by the Jaguars in March, and now he's on
pace for a 96-reception season.
Steelers running back Jerome Bettis tormented his former team,
the Rams, on Sunday, rushing 19 times for 129 yards and two TDs
in a 42-6 win. That performance resulted in another round of
Rams-bashing because St. Louis got only a second-round pick for
Bettis on draft day last spring. Yes, Bettis has outrushed his
Rams successor, rookie Lawrence Phillips, 953 yards to 316. But
Bettis would be struggling too, if he were running behind St.
Louis's woeful line....Jim Harbaugh has been only a 49% passer
during the Colts' 1-4 slide, and in the first 19 minutes of a
26-19 loss to the Chargers on Sunday, he threw four
interceptions. He threw five all last season....At 4-5, aren't
the Dolphins about where we thought they would be? Coach Jimmy
Johnson needs speed rushers and another cover corner, and
someone should remind rookie defensive tackle Daryl Gardener
that he's making first-round money to stop the run. Over the
last three games, all losses, Miami has allowed Ty Detmer, Troy
Aikman and Drew Bledsoe to complete a staggering 76.4% of their
throws while sacking them only three times....The Eagles made an
excellent move last week by signing linebacker William Thomas to
a five-year, $15.75 million extension. He would have been a
prize in what is shaping up as a thin 1997 free-agent crop....
At their fall meeting last week, NFL owners tabled until March a
vote on cross-ownership. They'll be making a big mistake if they
don't pass this motion. To turn away a potential owner like
billionaire Paul Allen in Seattle because he owns the NBA Trail
Blazers is absurd. Ditto if Wayne Huizenga, who owns the
baseball Marlins and the NHL Panthers, ends up selling the
Dolphins because of this archaic rule.
THE END ZONE
In advance of the Monday-night game between the Raiders and the
Broncos, quarterbacks Jeff Hostetler of Oakland and John Elway
of Denver appeared on the Internet to chat about the game. Even
in cyberspace Dan Reeves, the Broncos' coach from 1981 through
'92, was ridiculed for his tight rein on the offense in Elway's
early years. "Preparing for you this weekend, our defense has
decided to bring in Dan Reeves as a consultant," said Hostetler,
who didn't re-sign with the Giants after Reeves was named coach
there in '93. "We figure he did such a good job holding you down
before, he could do it again."
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER The resurgent Beebe has gone deep--80, 59 and 65 yards--for his three TDs with the Packers. [Don Beebe in game]
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO The Jags got a bargain in McCardell (87), who has been a better catch than the high-paid Rison. [Keenan McCardell in game]
'95 Rec- '96 Rec-
Yards-TDs Yards-TDs Totals
MCCARDELL 56-709-4 55-727-2 111-1,436-6
RISON 47-701-3 26-380-2 73-1,081-5