Paralyzed Stingley is one reason Cardinals' Cecil won't get off easy


When Chuck Cecil of the Phoenix Cardinals was nailed with a $30,000 fine a week ago for repeatedly hitting opponents with his helmet, he was quick to complain.

He said he'd appeal and argued he's always played that way.

"I'm playing the same way I did 12, 13, 14 years ago when I was in high school and now all of a sudden, it's illegal. I don't understand," Cecil said.

Don't expect his appeal to be successful.

The fine was endorsed last week by the one person who understands firsthand how dangerous helmet hits can be.

He's Darryl Stingley, the former New England Patriots wide receiver who was paralyzed by a Jack Tatum hit in 1978.

Stingley, who lives in Chicago, said: "You've got to fine them to remind them. By fining him, you single him out and put him in a fish bowl."

He added: "People watch us and liken us to a character in a Nintendo game. But there's a living, breathing human being under there. With a family."

Although Stingley was the last player paralyzed by a hit from a defensive back (Mike Utley in 1991 and Dennis Byrd, who recovered last year, were linemen paralyzed by freak collisions), he thinks the NFL has to remain vigilant.

"We need more actual policing of the game," he said.

That doesn't mean Stingley is against hard hitting.

He said he was a big fan of Hall of Fame middle linebacker Dick Butkus, who played his last year with the Chicago Bears in 1973 when Stingley was a rookie.

"Players disappeared when Dick Butkus hit them. He played hard and tough. And we knew he did a few things like biting and scratching. But he never meant to hurt anybody."

Cecil probably doesn't mean to hurt anybody, either.

But those hits with the crown of his helmet are as dangerous to Cecil as the players he hits.

The rematch

Don't expect the Buffalo Bills to be intimidated tonight when they host the New York Giants in a rematch of Super Bowl XXV.

That's because the Bills tend to dominate the NFC -- except in the Super Bowl. They're 11-2 against NFC teams since 1990. The only two losses came in 1990 and 1991 in the season finales when the Bills were resting veterans against the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions.

The Bills already have avenged last year's Super Bowl loss, beating the Dallas Cowboys, 13-10, although they were helped by the fact Emmitt Smith was holding out.

If they beat the Giants tonight, they'll have a chance to sweep all three teams they lost to in the Super Bowl. They play host to the Redskins Nov. 1.

Carlton Bailey, the Baltimore native who signed with the Giants as a free agent, has a unique perspective on today's game because he was on the Bills' three Super Bowl-losing teams.

"People don't remember we played them [Giants] twice that year. We beat them in the regular season, and it was just unfortunate we lost the second game," Bailey said.

The Giants, of course, have a new coach who knows something about losing Super Bowls. He's Dan Reeves, who lost three of them as head coach of the Denver Broncos.

Expansion update

It's deja vu all over again for the Charlotte expansion officials.

When the owners got the first look at its stadium-financing proposal in May of 1992, they had a negative reaction to the idea of financing the stadium simply with club seats and luxury boxes.

So Charlotte redesigned the plan to include Premium Seat Licenses in which they'd put a surcharge on 62,000 seats. Money raised was to be used to finance a new stadium. They sold about 50,000 of them and presented the plan in Chicago.

Mark Richardson, who designed the plan, said last week that the owners still don't like the Charlotte request for a waiver to put $3.2 million of its $9.4 million club-seat revenue each year into stadium financing for 15 years, instead of sharing it with the visiting teams.

Richardson said Charlotte will now try to revise the plan a third time before the teams are named at the end of the month.

"That's our challenge: to find areas where we can free up cash to allow us to share club-seat premiums at an earlier date and still retire the debt on our stadium. It's a challenge and we are optimistic that we will be able to work it down from the 15-year exemption," he said.

Charlotte's problem is that the owners put much more of an emphasis on the visiting team's share than commissioner Paul Tagliabue does.

At the meeting in Chicago a week ago, Tagliabue said, "Everyone always likes to see the largest visiting team share they can get. In terms of what we're looking at here, it's a positive, but it's not going to make or break a National Football League team. The differentials that we're talking about would pay 50 percent of the salary of the average player. Relative to the big picture, it's not a big number."

Since the average salary is now $650,000, he was talking about a swing of roughly $325,000.

That's a bigger number to the owners than it is to Tagliabue. The owners were willing to save $50,000 each by cutting his salary from $3 million to $1.6 million.

All this means Charlotte is scrambling to change its financing plan while St. Louis is ready to move in a heavy hitter to replace Jerry Clinton and still trying to sell luxury boxes and club seats.

Da Bears

When the Chicago Bears play host to the Atlanta Falcons today, it'll be their 1,000th game dating to 1920 when they were the Decatur (Ill.) Staleys. The Staleys beat Moline, 20-0, before 1,500 fans and have gone on to post a 580-377-42 record over the years.


For Tampa Bay's Tyji Armstrong, returning to Soldier Field last Sunday was an emotional experience.

His mother, Annie, died of a heart attack there last year watching her son play for the first time as a pro.

Last Sunday, Armstrong placed a vase of flowers on Seat 37, Row 19, Section 26 -- his mother's seat last year -- at 9:30 a.m. The seat was unoccupied and the Bears wouldn't let Armstrong pay for it.

The coaching derby

Joe Bugel of the Phoenix Cardinals gets a bye this week. He also may have gotten a reprieve.

Owner Bill Bidwill earlier said he had to win nine games to keep his job.

With the team at 1-3, Bidwill now is playing down the ultimatum and admits it could become a focal point for the players, "if they read about it enough."

"I think the team has played well, but not well enough to win, depending on your point of view, because of dropped passes, mental mistakes and turnovers," Bugel said.

Meanwhile, Jerry Glanville of the Falcons, who's 0-4, and Jack Pardee of the Houston Oilers, who's 1-3, were told by their owners they'll finish out the season.

The first Joe Gibbs rumor surfaced last week with a report Atlanta could be interested, but Gibbs was quick to say he doesn't plan to coach next year.

When the Steelers-Falcons Monday night game was blacked out in Atlanta last week, it was the 20th of 48 games this year to be blacked out locally because they weren't sold out 72 hours before kickoff.

That's 41.7 percent of games played. Last year, only 32.1 percent (72 of 224) were blacked out.

The bottom line

Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is very good at making money. He's not quite as good at spending it.

He blew a chance at winning the first two games by refusing to make Emmitt Smith the highest-paid running back in the game. Now he could hurt team morale by refusing to pay second-year wide receiver Jimmy Smith, who underwent an emergency appendectomy Aug. 25 and a second surgery for complications Sept. 3.

Jones argues that Smith has a non-football illness so he doesn't have to pay him his $360,000 salary. "It's very clear that appendicitis is not a football injury," he said.

He's right, but most teams play players who become ill during the season. Treating players well also becomes important in the free-agency era, when they can leave after four years.

Once the issue became controversial in Dallas, Jones offered to pay him $100,000 this year with added incentive bonuses in the future.

Meanwhile, it's become a public relations disaster for Jones.

The first time

When rookie free agent Eric Guliford caught a 45-yard pass to set up the Vikings' game-winning field goal last Sunday, it was his first offensive play of the season.

He had been waved into the game by receiver Cris Carter -- the coaches didn't know he was in -- because Qadry Ismail was tired after running deep routes. Packers cornerback Terrell Buckley was guilty of letting him get deep.

"My thinking on that was that the kicker had already kicked a 51-yard field goal. The 30-yard line is probably a chip shot for him. I broke trying to make a play. I should have been back deep, but it really wasn't a mental lapse. It was just thinking and I overthought," he said.

Jim McMahon said Buckley told Ismail that McMahon couldn't throw that far, but Buckley said he made the comment earlier on the drive when McMahon would have had to throw 70 or 80 yards.

How did coach Mike Holmgren of the Packers react to all this?

"What do you do? You talk about it, make the correction, support the player and press on. I'm not worried about Terrell," he said.

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