Season still young, but QB changes already getting old


NFL quarterbacks are proving once again how difficult it is to stay in the lineup.

As the season reaches the one-quarter pole, 11 of the league's 30 starting quarterbacks have suffered setbacks of one form or another.

Boomer Esiason and Steve Walsh have been benched; Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Kerry Collins have been knocked out with injuries; Steve Young may be forced to the sideline, Troy Aikman and John Elway are playing hurt; Jeff Hostetler and Warren Moon have come back from injuries and Jeff George has been suspended.

The latest casualty was Marino, who was sidelined three to four weeks with a fractured right ankle suffered in the first series of the Miami Dolphins' 10-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night.

Kelly, the Buffalo Bills quarterback who missed Sunday's game against Dallas with a pulled hamstring, should benefit from the bye week and might start against Indianapolis in two weeks.

If he's not ready, coach Marv Levy wouldn't say whether he'd start Todd Collins or Alex Van Pelt, who finished the Dallas game when Collins sprained an ankle.

The Carolina Panthers aren't sure if Kerry Collins, who sprained his left knee on Sept. 8, will be ready for Sunday's game at Jacksonville, but they don't have to rush him back after Steve Beuerlein passed for 290 yards and two touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

San Francisco coach George Seifert is debating whether to rest Young against Atlanta on Sunday. Young aggravated a pulled groin muscle when he was hit by Kevin Greene on the first play of the Carolina loss and it obviously slowed him. Seifert may go with Elvis Grbac to give Young more time to heal.

Kent Graham will remain the starter over Esiason in Arizona after he led the Cardinals to their first victory over New Orleans, while Tony Banks will become the league's only rookie starter when he gets the nod over Walsh when St. Louis goes to Arizona.

Dallas' Aikman, who has a sprained ankle, and Denver's Elway, who has an ailing elbow, will remain in the lineup, but they're not at the top of their game.

In Atlanta, Bobby Hebert will get the starting nod at San Francisco over George, who was suspended for arguing with coach June Jones Sunday night after being yanked in the 33-18 loss to Philadelphia.

The dive

Jim Harbaugh, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, likes to poke fun at his ugly style of winning, but he outdid himself Monday night.

His biggest play was diving for a fumble with 9: 46 left in the Colts' victory over the Dolphins. He struggled with the Dolphins' Chris Singleton for the ball before the official ruled simultaneous possession, which meant the Colts kept possession.

Harbaugh then had to go to the sideline to rest.

"I was so arm-weary from holding on to the ball, I realized I couldn't throw when I got up," Harbaugh said.

If Harbaugh hadn't gotten the ball, the Dolphins would have had it at the Colts' 39 and had a shot to go in for the winning score. Instead, they were pinned back to their 14- and 3-yard lines by punter Chris Gardocki on their final two possessions and never mounted a drive.

Wearing the bags

After Arizona beat the Saints in the Superdome on Sunday, Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill said, "At least, we did our part to help the New Orleans economy."

When asked what he meant, Bidwill said, "Because after this game, they're going to start selling those bags again."

The 0-4 Saints, who come to Baltimore on Sunday, are bringing back memories of the bad old days when the fans wore bags on their heads. The Saints drew only 34,316 fans, the lowest total of the Jim Mora era, which isn't expected to last much longer. Mora already got the dreaded vote of confidence from owner Tom Benson last week.

Second guess

One of the worst calls of the weekend was made by Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who took a delay-of-game penalty with a 4th-and-one at the Kansas City 13, trying to draw the Chiefs offside in the third period.

That meant Jason Elam had to try a 34-yard field goal instead of a 29-yarder. He then missed the kick, which would have been good from the 29 and the Broncos lost, 17-14.

Shanahan figured Elam was automatic from the 34 because he had made 33 of 34 kicks from the 30 to the 39 the last four years. He found out kickers are never automatic.

Looking ahead

The 1-3 Cowboys go to Philadelphia on Monday night to meet the 3-1 Eagles. It's their first trip there since the 4th-and-one fiasco a year ago and their first meeting since Eagles coach Ray Rhodes said he thought Barry Switzer gloated after beating the Eagles in the playoffs last year.

Mix in a week of the Philadelphia talk-radio shows to hype the game and a whole day for the Philadelphia fans to get in the proper mood for the game, and the Vet will be no place for Santa Claus.


Coach Dan Reeves of the New York Giants, when he was asked if he was surprised the New York Jets passed the ball 23 times and ran six in the second half in the rain during a 13-6 loss to the Giants, "I let you guys second-guess. I'm not going to second-guess somebody when I'm 1-3."

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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