After falling to No. 2, Giants' Simms finally may get some respect

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Phil Simms finally may find out what it's like to be really appreciated.

Even though the New York Giants quarterback has been one of the best in the past decade, he's had an odd relationship with the critical New York fans.

They've been quick to boo him, and they've never really taken him to their hearts. He's easy to take for granted because he's more of a steady player than a flashy player.

"He may be one of the few players who's played in New York who's been underrated," said an executive with another club.

But the fans may now start appreciating how good he was. After he was benched for Jeff Hostetler by new coach Ray Handley on Wednesday, Simms got a standing ovation at a luncheon the next day.

His benching was symbolic of how he's never been appreciated by his coaches, much less the fans. The first thing a new Giants coach does is bench Simms. Bill Parcells did it in 1983 when he went with Scott Brunner before he realized his mistake.

At age 35, Simms probably is on the downside, but it wouldn't be surprising if this benching turns out to be a mistake. We may not have seen the last of Simms.

Hostetler came off the bench to win a Super Bowl last season in one of the most heartwarming stories of any football season. But he's thrown 231 NFL passes. Simms has started 143 games. That's an awful lot of experience on the bench.

Simms also showed what an old pro he is by the way he handled it. He didn't moan or groan or demand to be traded. He said he plans to finish his career with the Giants.

When Handley seemed tentative in making the decision, Simms even told him to go ahead and make it.

"Ray was worried about this and that. I even said to him: 'Hey, Ray, don't worry about it. Make your decision and there'll be an uproar for a couple of days and it'll be over. And we'll all live and go on,' " he said.

Simms is ready to go on, but don't count him out.

"I read in the paper and people say, 'Well, now my career as a backup has started.' They make it sound like I died and I'm coming back and [I'm] going to be this other guy. I didn't do that, and I'm not dead. Look, I'll just be ready to play, and if it arises, it does, and if it doesn't, I'll live with that," he said.

Hostetler may find getting the job was a mixed blessing. He's going to have to live up to the standard Simms set.

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When the Giants played the San Francisco 49ers last December the most ballyhooed regular-season game in the past five years, the quarterback matchup was Simms vs. Joe Montana.

When the teams meet a week from tomorrow night in the season opener, it'll probably be Hostetler vs. Steve Young.

Montana is likely to miss the opener with a torn tendon in his arm, and the injury has raised questions about his future at age 35. Montana came back from serious back surgery in 1986, but when a quarterback has arm problems in his mid-30s, it can be the end.

Terry Bradshaw, the only other quarterback to win four Super Bowls, saw his career end at age 35 in 1983 with arm problems.

Meanwhile, Young takes over the toughest job in football. There's an old saying that you never should replace a legend. Young isn't another Montana. That's no disgrace because nobody else is, either, but he's the unfortunate soul who's got to try to live up to his legacy.

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The way things are going for the Washington Redskins, Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys should be wary. He's supposed to line up against the Redskins in their second game, and the quarterbacks who were due to face them in their first and third games -- Rodney Peete of the Detroit Lions and Timm Rosenbach of the Phoenix Cardinals -- are ailing.

rTC Unless Peete returns by next week, the Redskins will face Erik Kramer and Tom Tupa in their first and third games.

Even coach Joe Gibbs should have trouble worrying about them. But Gibbs will find a way.

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Stan Gelbaugh, the former University of Maryland quarterback who was Most Valuable Player of the first World League of American Football season, didn't get a long look by the Kansas City Chiefs last week.

Gelbaugh was cut after four days without taking a snap with the offense. He just ran the scout team.

"I just took up a spot at the lunch table," he said. "I guess they brought me in because I was available and it didn't cost them anything but a week's training camp salary."

Gelbaugh also spent two weeks in Canada with the Hamilton team, but left because the club's offer was so low that he didn't want to risk getting an injury.

Gelbaugh will help former Maryland teammate Tony Edwards, an assistant coach with the Watkins Mill High School team in Montgomery Village, and hopes to do some substitute teaching until the WLAF season starts next year.

The NFL delayed a decision on the WLAF's future until Sept. 12 at a meeting in Dallas last week. The owners want to meet with the TV executives before giving it a go-ahead, but Gelbaugh is confident the league will operate next year.

"If they were going to shut it down, they would have done it last week," he said.

Gelbaugh, naturally, is a WLAF booster. "It's a good thing for the business," he said. "It gives a lot of people an opportunity to play and coach. I'd like to coach in that league someday."

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The free-agency trial is set to start Feb. 17 in Minneapolis, but the players may not need it. They're doing fine just with the threat of the trial.

The fear that the players could win is is the only explanation for the five-year, $23 million contract that Dan Marino got from the Miami Dolphins last week.

He's never won a Super Bowl and yet he's making more than $1 million a year more than Montana. This contract is going to start a salary spiral.

Meanwhile, the players are doing well on the bottom end of the scale. As a condition to get the practice squad back, the owners agreed to give them a raise of about 6.5 percent from $3,000 to $3,200 a week.

Chip Yablonski, the lawyer for the players who made a deal for the second straight year while continuing to sue for the 1989 players who only got $1,000 a week, was gracious in victory and said there was "give-and-take" in the talks.

He apparently meant the owners did the giving and he did the taking.

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Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said the number of groups interested in owning a Baltimore expansion team remained at seven last week, although he said he doesn't think all seven will apply. Belgrad will be on vacation this week, but will be back after Labor Day to put the finishing touches on the application that must be filed by Sept. 16.

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The question is not whether the New England Patriots are going move. The question is when and where.

There were reports out of Jacksonville, Fla., that owner Victor Kiam had bragged to other owners back in May that he was close to a deal to move the team there. But according to The Boston Globe, he agreed to stay in New England for three years until the TV contract expires after the 1993 season when his debt limit by raised by the league.

Meanwhile, the Patriots lost, 46-0, to the Phoenix Cardinals last week, and the folks in Boston are wondering why any other city would want the team.

Here was the way the Globe reviewed the team after that loss:

"The average fan doesn't feel a Patriot ticket is a worthwhile investment. And it is difficult to imagine why the good people of Baltimore, who should know better, and Jacksonville would want this team. However, if they really do want these Patriots and Victor K. Kiam wants to move the team, there are few good reasons to prevent it. This is still a free country, and Kiam does own the team. If New England truly needs and demands an NFL franchise, one will surely be supplied. But, for now, New England is stuck with these Patriots."

In New England, they figure the NFL would have to give them another team because they're a top-10 TV market.

Phoenix's 46-0 victory was the most lopsided in the team's history since a 60-0 victory over Rochester in 1923 when the Cardinals were in Chicago.

That prompted Ron Wolfley of the Cardinals to say: "Rochester? From what I heard, that was a good team."

Not exactly. Rochester won two games in five seasons.

The Cardinals, who haven't won a playoff game since 1947, are a star-crossed franchise.

They drew 51,987 fans last week and were starting to generate

some excitement, but then they lost Rosenbach.

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The NFL's new policy of a four-game suspension for players convicted of drunken driving hasn't alerted players that it's not a good idea to drink and drive.

Two players, Kevin Butler of the Chicago Bears and Brian Mitchell of the Washignton Redskins, have been charged with driving under the influence since the policy was announced.

It's uncertain whether Butler will be affected because he wasn't under contract when he was arrested, although his agent called the Bears and came to terms before they found out about it.

Neither player is expected to miss any time this season because they must be convicted and can then appeal to the NFL. Mitchell's court date isn't until Dec. 23.

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Bobby Beathard, general manager of the San Diego Chargers, didn't give Lee Williams a warm send-off after trading him to the Houston Oilers last week.

"He might have the potential to be great, but he didn't have the will to be great," he said of the two-time Pro Bowl player. "We invested a lot of time and money in him, and we really didn't get our money's worth."

Williams replied, "Everybody's entitled to their opinion, but I don't know what more I could have done."

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