Murphy's Law rules NFL in week of controversy

THE BALTIMORE SUN

That was the week that wasn't for the National Football League.

Last week was the NFL's Murphy Law week: Everything that could go wrong did.

It made league officials yearn for the good old days of two weeks ago when Jerry Glanville made headlines by calling Jack Pardee a jerk. Glanville would have been relegated to the back pages last week.

The headline event was the situation in New England, where Patriots players made obscene comments and gestures to a Boston Herald reporter, Lisa Olson, after which the team's owner, Victor Kiam, was reported to have called her a "classic bitch."

Kiam since has apologized, the league has appointed a special counsel to investigate, the Herald has called for a boycott of today's game with the New York Jets and the suspension of Kiam by the NFL, and the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Women has called for a boycott of products made by Kiam's Remington company.

That was only the most publicized of the league's problems last week.

At the Los Angeles Coliseum, a Pittsburgh fan from Arizona attending the Steelers-Raiders game was beaten and left in critical condition by Raiders fans.

And in San Diego, Chargers nose tackle Joe Phillips was sidelined for at least eight weeks after being beaten by three men outside a restaurant. He had left the restaurant with a woman, who wasn't his wife, and before the attack exchanged words with the men, who apparently made a comment about the woman.

At Giants Stadium in New Jersey, New York Jets coach Bruce Coslet was involved in an exchange with a rowdy fan. He told the fan, "Why don't you come down here and say that?" Coslet said the incident was "kind of funny," but general manager Dick Steinberg said he'd speak to him about it.

Last, but not least, the NFL found itself in a hassle in Washington. Representative Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said the league is using Super Bowl tickets and expansion teams as bargaining chips to gain votes in support of a measure to ban sports lotteries.

DeFazio charged that the league told representatives of states seeking expansion teams that they wouldn't be considered for a team if they favored sports lotteries.

"They are being told . . . they'd better back off, otherwise they are not going to get an expansion team," he said.

The league admitted lobbying on the issue, but denied the other charges.

This happens to be the first bye week of the season. The four National Football Conference West teams will get the weekend off.

It's unfortunate the whole league can't take a bye and start the season over on a better note.

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This was supposed to be a grand day for John Hannah, the offensive lineman who was the best player ever to play for the Patriots.

When he retired, he was involved in a lawsuit with former owner Billy Sullivan over deferred pay. Kiam settled the suit, and the Patriots are welcoming him back into the team family by retiring his jersey today.

But the occasion is being overshadowed by the Olson controversy and the proposed boycott of the game. The way the Patriots draw crowds, it may be hard to tell if the boycott is effective or the fans are just apathetic.

"If my luck ran any better, I couldn't stand it," Hannah said. "I'm honored they're going to retire my jersey. It's not appropriate for jTC me to comment on the [Lisa Olson] situation. I do want to say this, though. There are a lot of solid individuals on this team . . . but they're tagged with the [sexually abusive] image and that's just not right. If some players did what was reported they did, they were totally wrong. Their actions don't represent the team

as a whole."

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When the Atlanta Falcons' Steve Broussard suffered a knee injury last Sunday, suspended Indianapolis Colts running back Eric Dickerson was hoping he'd be reinstated and then traded to the Falcons.

But Broussard recovered quickly, and Dickerson remains in limbo.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who conducted a hearing Sept. 17 on Dickerson's status, first said he'd make a ruling by last Thursday or Friday.

Instead, he decided he wanted more information on the case and delayed a decision. Unless Tagliabue reinstates him before the trading deadline, Dickerson's only option may be to rejoin the Colts if he wants to play this year. Since Dickerson spent most of the off-season trashing the Colts, his would be an uncomfortable reunion.

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Colts GM Jim Irsay announced last week that beleaguered coach Ron Meyer won't be fired this year. Team insiders even believe that Irsay is willing to let Meyer come back next year if the coach offers to shuffle his assistants. The Colts must pay him $400,000 next year if they fire him.

But if the team keeps losing, it's uncertain whether Jim's father, Bob, will be so patient. He's not noted for patience.

The Colts got a break last week when rookie quarterback Jeff George was sidelined with an abdominal pull. That gives the Colts a chance to rest him so he can watch and learn before he suffers a more serious injury. It also will give him a chance to avoid a battering today by Reggie White and his Philadelphia Eagles friends.

Meyer said: "You're going to have critics no matter what you do. You've just got to ignore that and go about your business. The best way to avoid all that is to do everything you can do to win."

Win? The Colts aren't too good at that.

If the Colts lose to the Eagles today and the Kansas City Chiefs next week, it will be the second time in the past five years that the team has lost its first five games. It started off 0-5 in 1986 and 1-5 in 1988.

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When Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants got off to a good start, despite holding out for all of training camp, there were a lot of jokes about how he had his training camp on the golf course.

A team spokesman said jokingly that the team should switch camp to Winged Foot.

The jokes stopped last week when Taylor pulled a hamstring on the final play of the game against the Miami Dolphins.

Although players who are in shape can pull hamstrings, it happens more easily when a player isn't in shape.

There was even a lot of talk about why Taylor was still in the game on the last play.

He was in the game because he wanted to be. Taylor decides when he wants to play. Coach Bill Parcells decided long ago to have a double standard for his star. The coach lets Taylor do what he wants because he knows what the linebacker means to the team, and Parcells gets the best out of him that way.

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Gene McCarthy once said a coach must be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important.

Coslet fits that mold.

Tuesday, when reporters arrived at the Jets complex for the weekly news conference after the Monday night game, he spoke to them by speaker phone from his second-floor office. He said he was too busy to walk down one floor to talk to them in person.

"We're a day short. That's the reason. Next question," he said.

Coslet also admitted he thought the Jets had made a first down when he called a run on fourth-and-long in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Buffalo Bills.

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Statistics to remember: The Minnesota Vikings are 8-7 since they made the Herschel Walker trade. They were 10-5 in their 15 games before the trade. . . . The Vikings have lost six straight outdoor games and are 1-11 in their past 12 outdoor games. The lone victory was in Tampa, Fla. . . . . The Dallas Cowboys have gone 12 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rushing game. . . . Ten teams either have new offensive coordinators or have installed new offenses. Nine of them are 1-2 and the other, the Seattle Seahawks, is 0-3. . . . Norm Johnson of the Seahawks makes 69 percent of his field-goal attempts except when he can win or tie a game with a kick. He then slips to 43 percent.

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Don't expect the practice-squad agreement to lead to any other quick deals between the owners and the players.

Attorney Jim Quinn, representing the players in their free agency suit, said he had one meeting with the owners and it was so unproductive that there hasn't been a second.

Both sides are gearing up for yet another round of court action.

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The Cleveland Browns play their second game against their former coach, Marty Schottenheimer, when they travel to Kansas City, Mo., today to play the Chiefs. The teams played to a 10-10 tie last year.

When they met in Cleveland, the Browns fans yelled obscenities at him. Schottenheimer said, "I thought it was amusing that I or anybody could generate that type of enthusiasm."

Schottenheimer was more upset with the tie. "It feels awful. It feels like a loss. It felt like drinking a glass of that white stuff you drink when you don't feel so good," he said.

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