Joke will be on Schottenheimer if Montana doesn't get healthy NFL WEEK 6

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Marty Schottenheimer, the coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, will never be known as a wild and crazy guy.

That's why it was so surprising last week when Schottenheimer showed up at a news conference wearing a turban and appearing to peer into a crystal ball.

In a perfect sound bite for the TV cameras, Schottenheimer said, "Montana . . . Joe . . . It's very cloudy . . . Some sense of uncertainty . . . Percentages are 50-50."

Schottenheimer then removed the turban and said, "I hope I made my point. I don't know. I really don't know."

Schottenheimer had found a way to have fun with all the questions about Joe Montana's health.

Montana pulled his hamstring in the second quarter of the Chiefs' victory over the Los Angeles Raiders last Sunday and the Chiefs don't know how long he'll be out. He'll probably miss today's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Although quarterbacks get hurt all the time, Montana is no ordinary quarterback. He's 37 and sat out all but one half of the past two seasons.

Montana has had physical problems this season, too. He injured his wrist in the first game and sat out the second one.

"Is Joe more brittle than I thought he was?" Schottenheimer said. "I don't know. That's why we have David Krieg."

Montana said he had no history of hamstring pulls and seems frustrated.

"It's aggravating to me," he said. "It's one little thing after another. I hope I'm getting them all out of the way."

Montana suffered the injury while he was scrambling. Although Aaron Wallace of the Raiders was penalized for hitting him out of bounds, Montana said he felt something pop before he reached the sidelines.

Paul Hackett, the offensive coordinator, said Montana has to curtail his scrambling.

"He ran the ball a little more than we would like. That's always been a part of his game," he said. "I don't think we're ever going to eliminate it entirely. But I'd like to see him get out of bounds a little faster."

The trouble is, you can't play football that way. Montana can't be effective if he's worrying about getting hurt.

Chiefs president Carl Peterson said: "When we made the trade, we didn't expect him to play 60 minutes for 16 regular-season games in 1993. That's not a revelation. How many quarterbacks played 16 games for 60 minutes in 1992?"

Only one quarterback took every snap last year, and he is Montana's backup -- Krieg.

That's the only thing Krieg does better than Montana -- stay healthy.

The Chiefs have to keep their fingers crossed Montana can stay healthy. So does the NFL, which would love the thought of Montana bringing the Chiefs into the Super Bowl.

Although the NFL clobbers the NBA in TV ratings, it doesn't have the type of stars the NBA has. Network anchorman Tom Brokaw covered Michael Jordan's retirement, but don't look for him to cover the retirement of any NFL player.

Montana is one of the few marquee players the league has and he's on his last legs. The Chiefs and the NFL hope the legs last till January.

Catching Joe's pass

Chiefs backup offensive lineman Joe Valerio got his ticket to the Hall of Fame last week -- all for catching a Montana touchdown pass.

"I'm in elite company now," he said. "Someone mentioned that in the Hall of Fame, they put up all his receivers who caught TD

passes so in about 10 years, I'm going to have to make a trip to Canton and get a couple of pictures of the shrine when Joe is inducted."

The quarterback derby

While Montana gets most of the attention, there's a lot of quarterback shuffling going around the league.

Mark Rypien returns to the starting lineup in Washington, Bubby Brister makes first start today in Philadelphia for Randall Cunningham, John Friesz replaces Stan Humphries, who has a sore shoulder, in San Diego and Jeff Hostetler is likely to return for the Los Angeles Raiders after sitting out a week with an ankle injury. The Indianapolis Colts had planned to replace Jack Trudeau with Jeff George, but had to switch signals when George bruised a hand.

The Bengals toyed with the idea of replacing David Klingler with Jay Schroeder, but stuck with the second-year man. The Cleveland Browns also could give Bernie Kosar the quick hook for Vinny Testaverde, who replaced him the past two games.

The Detroit Lions even made a quarterback change during their bye week.

Coach Wayne Fontes announced that Rodney Peete is now the starter for the rest of the year. Fontes raised eyebrows when he yanked Peete for Andre Ware, and then watched his team lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It didn't help that owner William Clay Ford left a message for Ware congratulating him on becoming the starter -- and left it on Erik Kramer's answering machine. That fostered the speculation that Ford had called the shot.

Don't be surprised if Peete isn't the quarterback for the rest of the way. The way quarterbacks are going down, he's not likely to stay healthy the rest of the year even if he isn't pulled.

The expansion derby

The NFL's expansion and finance committees will meet in Dallas on Wednesday to review the applications of the five cities shooting for expansion teams.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said the NFL hasn't asked for any new information. The city's application is set.

But St. Louis and Charlotte are expected to make changes.

St. Louis is expected to come up with a new ownership group. Last week, it announced it has sold all its available club seats.

Charlotte is restructuring its financial package because the owners aren't happy with their request to keep $3.2 million of the club-seat revenue that normally goes to the visiting team. Charlotte wants to set aside money to finance a stadium.

No recommendation will formally come out of this meeting, which will set the stage for the meeting in Chicago on Oct. 26, when the actual decision will be made.

Indications are that five of the owners on the expansion committee -- Art Modell of the Browns, Norman Braman of the Eagles, Alex Spanos of the Chargers, Rankin Smith of the Falcons and Edward DeBartolo of the 49ers -- are leaning toward Baltimore. The sixth, Hugh Culverhouse of the Buccaneers, is ill and probably won't attend.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported last week that Braman favors Baltimore and Jacksonville.

The top rookie

Rick Mirer of the Seattle Seahawks was No. 2 in the NFL draft behind Drew Bledsoe, but he's No. 1 among the rookie crop.

He's 3-2 as a starter for a team that won two games last year. That was significant because winning more games than last year was one of the clauses that earned him a $3 million bonus.

How special is 3-2 for a rookie quarterback?

He's one of 14 rookies to start since 1970 and only one other one -- Joe Ferguson of the Buffalo Bills, who could hand off to O. J. Simpson in 1973 -- got off to a better start. Ferguson was 4-1.

Mirer, whose completion rate is 65.9 percent, threw for 282 yards to beat the Chargers last Sunday.

"I'm going to stay in the pocket and throw for 300 yards in this game," he told offensive coordinator Larry Keenan before the game. He just missed it while becoming the AFC Player of the Week.

Going back

The Houston Oilers return to Buffalo -- the site of their playoff disaster last season -- tomorrow night.

Quarterback Warren Moon said, "A loss is a loss. I don't think about it until people bring it up."

But then he added: "It's always in the back of your mind, though, because we were a part of it. I'm sure we're going to hear about that game long after we retire. But it's not like we go around talking about it."

The Oilers actually had a controversy last week that didn't involve Buddy Ryan. Owner Bud Adams said the team's 1-3 start was caused by players having too many off-the-field activities, including charity work.

Moon said: "I really think this is nitpicking."

Staying in town

Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who has complained about Rich Stadium in recent years, agreed to a $22.7 million improvement plan that includes a new video scoreboard, 850 premium seats and 14 additional luxury boxes.

The state of New York will kick in $8 million; ticket and parking surcharges will pay for the rest. The deal calls for Wilson to begin talks on a new lease in January, four years before his lease expires in 1998.

The Bills have led the league in attendance for five years, but that's not enough for owners these days. They want the extra revenue that comes from luxury boxes.

Lifting the blackout

The Indianapolis Colts have figured out a way to get the blackout lifted -- host the Super Bowl champions. The Dallas Cowboys make their first appearance at the Hoosier Dome today and the game is a sellout, which means the blackout will be lifted in Indianapolis for only the fifth time in 26 games in the 1990s.

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