NOW THAT MichaelVick has entered a guilty plea to a dogfighting charge and been suspendedindefinitely, football junkies are coming to grips with the fact that theSunday night highlight reel may never be the same again. But football goes on.So next week, when the first Vickless season since 2000 kicks off, the mintingof a new Sunday-night action hero will begin.
Who's the heir tothe title of Highlight King? Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, classic drop-backpassers, don't make you ooh and aah. LaDainian Tomlinson is one of the top fivebacks of all time, but we've come to expect brilliance from him—so when heinevitably delivers, we feel satisfied, not exhilarated. Chicago's DevinHester? Returners are rarely brilliant year in and year out. Vince Young iscertainly the closest young passer to Vick—a running quarterback with subparaccuracy—but at 233 pounds, he's more of a physical runner than ajitterbug.
Reggie Bush made astrong case last year—not many players could duplicate his 88-yard catch andrun in the NFC title game against the Bears. But there is one player who caneject more fans from their Barcaloungers than Bush: Jacksonville's MauriceJones-Drew, the NFL's new Mr. Excitement. A squatty 5'7" and 208 pounds,Jones-Drew looks like a third-down blocking back. But he never stops moving;his legs churn like John Riggins's used to. He might be the best tackle-breakerin football. "When Maurice touches the ball," said Jacksonville radioplay-by-play man Brian Sexton, "my heartbeat races, my tongue goes faster,and I tend to lose it."
For example, therewas the time Jones-Drew bounced off granitelike teammate Kyle Brady at the lineof scrimmage against New England, fell down, bounced up, broke two tackles andsprinted 74 yards for a touchdown. Then there was the time during his235-total-yard, two-touchdown game against the Colts, when Sexton's partner,Jeff Lageman, kept saying, "The Colts can't tackle him! They can't tacklehim!" You may have seen his biggest YouTube hit, a 32-yard touchdown runagainst Miami when the Jags were just trying to run out the clock. Jones-Drewran into a wall of players and, just as it seemed the ref was going to blow theplay dead, he emerged from the scrum, bulled out of two tackles and scored.
"I'm playinglike I played when I was a kid," Jones-Drew said over the weekend. "Ilike running into people. You better move, or there's going to be acollision."
And fans can feelgood about having their breath taken away by Jones-Drew. He's an unassuming kidfrom UCLA who added Jones to the back of his jersey to honor his grandfather,who helped raise him and died of a heart attack he suffered while watching aBruins game at the Rose Bowl in 2005. As for assuming Vick's on-field mantel,Jones-Drew says, "That's not why I play. It's nice, and when people watchfootball, I want them to say, 'What did Maurice do?' But I couldn't care lessabout individual stats. I want to win."
Don't be somodest, kid. You're about to become must-see TV.
Default of the Week
When Latrell Sprewell explained his rejection of a $21 million offer from theTimberwolves in 2004 by saying he had a "family to feed," he wasspeaking metaphorically. He also had a boat mortgage to pay, a commitment heallegedly hasn't lived up to. Last week a bank repossessed Milwaukee's Best,Spree's $1.5 million yacht, because he had failed to pay his monthly $10,322bill. The bank wants to sell the vessel to pay the $1.3 million it claims heowes.
Dropped Calls of the Week
Everyone who's ever asked, "Can you hear me now?" has had the urge tohurl a mobile device. There's a place where that sort of behavior is acceptedand encouraged: the world cellphone throwing championships (left), which wereheld last Saturday in Savonlinna, Finland. The distance event was won byFinland's Tommi Huotari, with a toss of 294 feet. "I have never thrown aphone before but have been participating in potato throwing," Huotari, a38-year-old engineer, said. "A potato flies further."
WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES (JONES-DREW)
JOHN BIEVER (JONES-DREW RUNNING)
THRILLER Jones-Drew, the 60th overall pick in the 2006 draft, had 16 touchdowns in just 244 touches as a rookie for the Jags.
SEPPO SIRKKA/EPA (CELLPHONE THROWING)