Giants coach feeling the press-ure NFL WEEK 6

THE BALTIMORE SUN

"Giant Mess"

"Raving Ray Must Go"

"Lupica to Handley: Get Out"

"Giants need a coach, not a case for a couch"

"Handley's boorish behavior has become an embarrassment to football."

Those were just some of the headlines in the New York tabloids last week about the New York Giants and their beleaguered coach Ray Handley, who has been accused of everything but taking a trip to Moscow as a student.

George Young, the general manager who remained calm in the eye of the hurricane, said with a smile, "Bruce Coslet [Jets coach] finally won a game last week, and he couldn't get his name in the paper."

Handley, meanwhile, couldn't keep his name out of the paper.

Apparently angered by some unflattering footage a TV station ran of his Monday news conference, Handley announced he was cutting back on the time he spends with the media. He then either did or did not -- depending on which version you believe -- push the arm of a photographer who was unaware he was no longer supposed to shoot practice.

Mike Lupica, a columnist who wrote a book with former coach Bill Parcells -- so he might not be an unbiased observer -- wrote, "Now is the time for Handley to go."

At least for now, though, Handley is remaining on the sidelines. He still seems to have Young's backing.

Young won't bother to comment on the coach-media tango, although Handley seems to have forgotten the adage that it's not a good idea to get into a battle with people who buy their ink by the barrel.

Young is busy working his way through the team's transition. An era is ending for the team. Lawrence Taylor has announced he's retiring, and Phil Simms got hurt again last week and is obviously near the end.

"We're trying to get our problems solved, but we can't solve them all at one time. . . . Ray happens to be the coach here while this is taking place," Young said.

The anniversary

The NFL dates the start of pro football to Nov. 12, 1892, when former Yalie Pudge Heffelfinger got the first known contract ($500) to play pro football for the Allegheny Athletic Association near Pittsburgh.

On the 100th anniversary next month, the NFL will be -- where else? -- in court.

On Nov. 12, Judge David Doty will hear arguments on whether he should allow all of the players whose contracts expire at the end of this season to become free agents.

Although the owners finally have contacted Jim Quinn, the players' lead attorney, about holding settlement talks, both sides will wait to hear what Doty decides before getting down to substantive negotiations.

A face lift

The Los Angeles Coliseum Commission will use $15 million it won from the NFL over the move of the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles to give the stadium a face lift. The money will pay for lowering the field and to install seats closer to the playing field.

But there's not enough money to construct luxury boxes, and it remains to seen if Al Davis, the Raiders owner, will be satisfied. A plan to build luxury boxes with private funds has collapsed.

Stashing?

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue finally got around to bringing in Charley Casserly, the general manager of the Washington Redskins, last week to question him about the decision to put rookie quarterback Chris Hakel on the injured-reserve list with a shoulder injury. Casserly presented the Redskins' evidence that Hakel really was hurt in practice.

Tagliabue has called in executives from several teams, including Chuck Schmidt, the executive vice president of the Detroit Lions, and Bobby Beathard, the San Diego Chargers GM, to discuss players they put on the IR list.

Tagliabue can take away a second-round draft choice if he finds a team guilty of stashing. The finger often has been pointed at the Redskins, because their young quarterbacks have a habit of winding up on IR.

The problem is that virtually every player has some sort of injury, so it's virtually impossible to prove a player isn't injured. With all the other legal problems facing the league, it'll be surprising if Tagliabue starts meting out any penalties.

By just calling in the executives, he hopes to discourage the practice.

On the road?

The perception that the New England Patriots are a basket case and will be heading to St. Louis seems to be getting stronger every week.

Last week, even the public relations director, Pat Hanlon, quit. He apparently didn't like working for president Sam Jankovich, who's not noted for his tact.

"The timing of my leaving is not conventional," Hanlon said. "But there are a lot of unconventional things about the situation in New England. I just felt I had done what I could."

There are problems on and off the field. Some of the players, notably offensive linemen Pat Harlow and Eugene Chung, got into a scuffle at halftime last week, another sign of how frustrated the winless team is.

On top of everything else, the Pats are host to the San Francisco 49ers today. At least the Patriots expect to get a big crowd. The fans obviously want to see a good football team.

Goodbye

Louis Billups wasn't happy about being benched in Green Bay for rookie Terrell Buckley. He complained about the move, yelled at a flight attendant on the trip home from Atlanta and then lost control of his vehicle at 2:18 a.m. and struck a wire attached to a power pole. About 1,000 people lost their power for 90 minutes.

The next day, he was released.

Coach Mike Holmgren said: "I told him I wanted him to stay. We need three good corners, but it got to the point where I felt he couldn't deal with the situation."

Empathy

Mike Tomczak can understand what Mike Harbaugh, the Chicago Bears quarterback, is going through right now. Tomczak, who's with the Browns, got so much verbal abuse from coach Mike Ditka that he sought therapy when he was in Chicago.

"It's going to be very difficult for him to come back from it. It's tough to ask a quarterback to come back and respond when he's humiliated on the sidelines," Tomczak said.

But Harbaugh said he isn't bothered by Ditka's tirade last week after he changed a Ditka play and threw a pass that was intercepted and run back for a touchdown.

"A lot of people think I am down or wrecked because the coach yelled at me. That is just not the case. I played for Bo Schembechler [at Michigan] and was yelled at many times," Harbaugh said.

Not that Ditka is backing down.

"If I wouldn't have been critical, it would have been the same people who would have said, 'Why don't you say something?' There is a good place where they can plant their lips."

Vito Stellino's picks

It's normal procedure for teams to get in extra practice during the bye week.

But only Sam Wyche, Mr. Wicky-Wacky himself, would practice halftime. That's right. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach announced last week that his team would spend the bye week trying to solve the team's third-quarter problems -- it's been outscored, 40-17, in the quarter.

"We're going to rehearse halftime," he said. Right down to the pep talk.

"I've never practiced halftime before," said wide receiver Mark Carrier. He didn't seem eager to do it again.

There may be an explanation for all this, although it's always dangerous trying to explain Sam. It turns out the Bucs lost to the Colts last week. Losing to the Colts can do that to a person. Especially one like Sam.

VITO'S PICK THE LINE

Eagles 24, Chiefs 14 Eagles by 2 1/2

The Eagles don't exactly seem to be missing Keith Jackson too much.

49ers 40, Patriots 10 49ers by 16 1/2

Are they selling those St. Louis Patriots T-shirts yet?

Cowboys 30, Seahawks 3 Cowboys by 15 1/2

Troy Aikman doesn't think Philadelphia is the city of Brotherly Love.

Dolphins 21, Falcons 7 Dolphins by 7 1/2

Enough of Deion Sanders already.

Giants 24, Cardinals 7 Giants by 7

The Giants fans disagree with Dan Quayle when he says there are too many lawyers. They want Ray Handley to become one.

Steelers 23, Browns 10 Steelers by 3

Art Modell is trying to explain to Browns fans why he hired Bill Belichick over Bill Cowher, who played and coached for the Browns.

Bills 28, Raiders 10 Bills by 7

Jim Kelly seemed to be doing a Mark Rypien imitation last week.

Oilers 31, Bengals 17 Oilers by 7

There's not much Boom in Boomer these days.

Colts 21, Jets 20 Jets by 2 1/2

This is an alert. The Colts could cash in on the fifth-place schedule in the next six weeks. They've got the 1-4 Jets today, the 1-4 Chargers twice and the 0-4 Patriots sandwiched around a pair of games with Miami. I'll have to jinx the Colts by picking them to win this one.

Saints 24, Rams 12 Saints by 9 1/2

The Seahawks may be wondering why they didn't keep Chuck Knox.

Redskins 27, Broncos 24 Redskins by 9

All over Washington this weekend, Redskins season-ticket holders are practicing getting their vocal cords in good shape for tomorrow night's game. After all, they've got to be ready to do a lot of booing of Mark Rypien.

Best bets: Eagles, Bills, 49ers and Steelers.

Last week's record: 7-5. Against the spread: 3-7-2. Best bets: 0-2-2.

Season record: 43-21. Against the spread: 28-32-4. Best bests: 7-10-3.

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