This is the off-season that will not end for Thurman Thomas.
"People are still making jokes about the missing helmet and what I said during Super Bowl week," Thomas said recently. "It gets to a point where you're just sick and tired of hearing it every day."
Thomas knows he'll hear more about it when training camp starts in July.
Owner Ralph Wilson already has said he plans to talk to the players about their attitude, and Thomas knows he'll hear from the fans, too.
"Some fan is going to say something like, 'Hey, Thurman, where's your helmet? Haven't you found it yet?' "
Thomas, of course, misplaced his helmet and missed the first two plays of the Super Bowl. Not that it made much difference in the Bills' 37-24 loss to the Washington Redskins, but it capped a nightmarish week for Thomas.
He had complained that he didn't get enough recognition and then he skipped a mandatory media session -- an unusual move for a player who wants recognition.
Thomas figures the only way he's going to put it all behind him is to have a great season.
"I want it to go back to the way it used to be," he said. "I want it to go back to where I was a happy person all the time, when I could say things to make everybody laugh rather than be mad at me. What I'm going to have to do is come out and have a better year than I had last year. I've got to perform well again to get the fans off my case about that whole situation."
To start improving his image, he wrote a letter to the Buffalo News last month to congratulate the Buffalo Bandits for winning the Major Indoor Lacrosse League title.
"I had never seen the sport before until I watched a tape of when they won the championship and I said, 'Dang, these guys are busting their butts, they're getting slapped around and not really getting paid any money, maybe $100 a game, and here we are making almost hundreds of thousands of dollars for almost the same type sport.' So I thought it'd be nice to write in," he said.
That's a wrap: The World League wraps up its second season with today's playoff game between the Sacramento Surge and the Barcelona Dragons and World Bowl II next Saturday night in Montreal.
After that, the owners have to decide the future of the league. Lamar Hunt, the Kansas City Chiefs' owner who heads the board of directors, said he wants to keep the league going, but will recommend "drastic changes" in the future.
He wants the league to run from mid-April to late June to avoid a conflict with the NCAA basketball tournament and he wants more NFL players such as Andre Ware to participate.
"I don't mean to criticize the Detroit Lions [for not getting Ware to play], but Ware is the type of player who can create interest in the World league," he said.
Hunt said this will all be discussed at an evaluation meeting later this month.
Contract hassles: As if the Redskins didn't have enough troubles trying to sign veterans Mark Rypien, Darrell Green, Jim Lachey and Ricky Sanders, it now appears they could have problems signing Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard.
Howard was the fourth player picked in the draft, behind Steve Emtman, Quentin Coryatt and Sean Gilbert. Since the first three already have signed for an average of $2.25 million, $2.15 million and $1.5 million a year, Howard would seem to fit in somewhere below Gilbert's $1.5 million in the NFL's slotting system.
Leigh Steinberg, Howard's agent, doesn't see it that way.
"I've been pretty consistent in saying I don't think the slotting system makes all that much sense," he said. In the slotting system, each player generally gets a little less than the player drafted in front of him and a little more than the player drafted behind him.
Since Howard was the Heisman Trophy winner and the first offensive player picked, it's obvious Steinberg doesn't think he should be paid as the fourth-best player.
Steinberg isn't ready to publicly play the Canadian Football League card because he said Howard likes the idea of playing in Washington. "We approach these discussions with optimism," he said.
It's a fact, though, that last year's most sought-after returner/receiver, Rocket Ismail, signed in Canada, and it's likely Howard will take a look at Canada if the talks stall.
The labor wars: With the start of the antitrust trial in Minneapolis just 15 days away, the two sides still aren't close to a settlement even though they had talks last week.
One sign that no settlement is near is that commissioner Paul Taglilabue informed the owners Friday he won't call a meeting to discuss the labor situation this week although he left open the possibility of a June 9 meeting.
The expansion derby: Although expansion is on hold until after the NFL's antitrust trial, Charlotte, N.C., is trying to whip up enthusiasm for its bid. It will hold a pep rally on June 10.
"Sometimes it comes down to war," said Max Muhleman, a consultant for the Charlotte group. "There are five markets out there competing. Three of those will be defeated and lose. Two will win and we want to be one of those."
Incidentally, Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot said he doesn't expect another expansion any time soon.
* A small club: The word from the Pro Football Hall of Fame is that only two players have won the Heisman Trophy, been the first player selected in the draft and then made the Hall of Fame the first year they were eligible.
9- They were O.J. Simpson and Earl Campbell.