Patriots looking for rookie Andy Katzenmoyer to stop sleepwalking
As Patriots rookie middle linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer made an
uninspiring debut against the Redskins last Friday night, one
couldn't help but think back to what New England coach Pete
Carroll said about him earlier in the week. In so many words,
Carroll said he wished Katzenmoyer played with a bit more fire.
"It's a personality trait that can transfer into a skill," said
Carroll. He's right. Football's a game of adrenaline.
Katzenmoyer, who might hold the fate of the Pats' defense in his
21-year-old hands, needs to understand that. He was on the field
for about 45 of New England's 60 defensive plays from scrimmage;
in the Patriots' 20-14 loss, he assisted on three tackles--none
when matched against Washington's top two units--and had no
sacks or quarterback pressures. This performance followed a
disappointing final season at Ohio State, during which he
averaged just six tackles a game and went sackless in 10 of 12
outings. After starting last season as a top five prospect, he
plunged to the 28th pick in last April's draft. Scouts said he
wasn't instinctive or aggressive and that he had trouble
That was the Katzenmoyer who replaced an injured Ted Johnson
against Washington. "At first I'm going to feel hesitant, and
I'm going to be thinking a lot out there," Katzenmoyer said
after the game. "It'll be a while before I'm comfortable."
Katzenmoyer does have one reason to be tentative. Though he was
being groomed to play outside linebacker, to capitalize on his
speed and pursuit skills, he was thrust into the middle when
Johnson tore his left biceps on Aug. 7. "He's had so much thrown
at him," says Carroll. "You can't draw a conclusion after one
But his lack of passion can't be overlooked. In the preseason
it's not unusual to see a veteran with a roster spot locked up
avoiding piles. But a rookie playing like that? In his first
game? It wasn't a good sign, particularly considering the role
that the middle linebacker plays in the Patriots' defense.
Johnson, who is expected to miss at least three to four months,
was the force who rallied the New England front seven in the
face of injuries last year.
At his locker Katzenmoyer oozes football player. He has the
glare of Jack Lambert, the biceps of Junior Seau, the upper-body
definition of Greg Lloyd. No Patriot looks more like an impact
player. The 6'3", 264-pound Katzenmoyer had better start playing
like one, or New England will struggle to get a wild-card berth.
Mouth of the South
SAPP PREDICTS A SACK TITLE
Ask Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp what he did during the
1998 off-season, and he replies, "Got married. Searched for a
house. Got fat. Rested on my laurels." He also signed a
six-year, $36 million contract extension.
When the '98 season began, Sapp was a bloated 315 pounds, 20
over his ideal playing weight. Though he went on to have a
seven-sack season and ended up at the Pro Bowl, he believes he
disgraced the reputation he had earned the year before (when he
had 10 1/2 sacks) as a defensive terrorist. "I know I'm one of
the best in the game, but the level I played at last year was
sickening," he says. That's part of the reason that Tampa Bay,
10-6 and a playoff team in 1997, slipped to 8-8 and stayed home
during the postseason.
In training camp last week Sapp, at 287 pounds, looked sleek and
cat-quick. He has never shied from issuing challenges--to
himself, his teammates or the rest of the league. He says this
is the Bucs' make-or-break season. "If this group can't do it
this year," he says, "they ought to get a new bunch of players
in here." He predicts he'll lead the NFL in sacks. "When this
season is over," he says, "I will stand atop the mountain. I
will wear the crown."
Ousted General Manager
CASSERLY'S STRANGE FATE
The scene in the press box at Foxboro Stadium last Friday night
was bizarre. Exiled Redskins general manager Charley Casserly,
now a team consultant, sat alone and noticeably apart from new
owner Daniel Snyder, watching as players he had acquired in the
eight months before his demotion on July 23 accounted for all
the points in Washington's win over the Patriots. Casserly's
first-round draft pick, cornerback Champ Bailey, intercepted a
Drew Bledsoe pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown. Then
quarterback Brad Johnson--Casserly got him from the Vikings for
three draft choices--finished a 79-yard drive with a four-yard
touchdown pass to fullback Larry Centers, a Casserly free-agent
signee. Brett Conway, signed last November by you-know-who,
booted 39- and 24-yard field goals and a pair of extra points.
With the first and second units playing in the first half, the
Redskins dominated New England 20-0. "That," Casserly said, with
a nod toward the field, "is my resume out there."
Casserly is expected to be cut loose by the 34-year-old Snyder
in September, once the impetuous new owner is more comfortable
running the franchise. Casserly had his share of free-agent
failures, and a run of six straight years without making the
playoffs would doom almost any general manager, but he shouldn't
be without a job for long. He's well respected around the NFL,
partly because of his work as a member of the league's
GREEN ROLLED DICE, LOST
Vikings coach Dennis Green wrongly viewed rookie defensive end
Dimitrius Underwood, who announced last week that he's giving up
football, as this year's Randy Moss, a diamond-in-the-rough who
would mature in the company of Green and his loyal veterans.
Last fall Underwood gave indications that he had lost interest
in playing. Sidelined at the start of the season by an ankle
injury, Underwood elected not to play even after Michigan State
doctors had declared him fit in October. It's amazing that the
Vikings, in Green's first months with complete personnel
authority, wasted a first-round draft pick on such a player....
Browns tackle and Barry Sanders's friend Lomas Brown, on
Sanders's retirement: "Barry always means what he says. I think
he'll never play again." ... The Packers will probably cut or
deal Rick Mirer or Matt Hasselbeck if mobile rookie quarterback
Aaron Brooks continues to excel. He reminds Green Bay coaches of
a young Randall Cunningham.... One man who's not worried about
the Denver quarterback situation is Broncos coach Mike Shanahan,
who watched backup Brian Griese complete 18 of 21 passes for 192
yards and two scores in a 38-7 win over the Cardinals last
Read Peter King's postcards from camp at cnnsi.com/football.
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER While manning the middle against the Redskins, Katzenmoyer (59) had trouble fighting off blocks.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO
Edge to Edgerrin
When the two premier rookie running backs face off in a
preseason game this Saturday, don't blame the Saints' Ricky
Williams (above) if he's a little envious. In the contract
competition the Colts' Edgerrin James, who was the fourth pick
in the April draft and signed a seven-year, $49 million deal,
was the clear winner over Williams, who was picked one spot
later and signed an incentive-laced, seven-year contract. James
has his share of incentive clauses, so SI calculated how much
each player would be paid if he performed to the following
starry but not unrealistic standards for each of his first three
seasons: 300 carries, 1,200 rushing yards, 45 receptions, 450
receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns.
Signing bonus $9.5 million $8.843 million
1999 income $4.275 million $475,000
2000 income $4.235 million $500,000
2001 income $4.335 million $575,000
Total $22.345 million $10.393 million