Howard returns to what he does best


When Desmond Howard won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan in 1991, the Green Bay Packers wanted to make him the fifth pick in the 1992 draft.

That's why the Washington Redskins thought they pulled off a coup when they gave up a No. 1 pick to the Cincinnati Bengals to leapfrog from the sixth to the fourth spot to grab Howard.

The coup wound up being a bust.

Howard was never the great receiver the Redskins thought he was going to be, and they left him unprotected in the expansion draft after three frustrating years.

Jacksonville selected him, but he lasted only a year there before being jettisoned even though the Jaguars were desperate for receivers.

The Packers signed him this year and found out what his true role is in the NFL. He's not a receiver, he's a very good punt returner.

Howard's 92-yard punt return for a touchdown in Green Bay's 31-3 rout of the Detroit Lions Sunday was the fourth longest in Packers history and gave him 791 punt return yards for the season, breaking the NFL record of 692 set by Fulton Walker in 1985. His third touchdown return of the season broke a club record.

"You look at a guy who should be in the Pro Bowl and Desmond should be there," defensive end Reggie White said. "Whenever we're struggling, he gives us a chance. The last couple of weeks when we were struggling, he opened it up for us. He's so valuable to this team, it's incredible."

Howard finished off the run by re-enacting his Heisman Trophy pose that he did at Michigan.

Since the game was at the Pontiac Silverdome, 60 miles from his alma mater, he thought it appropriate to do it again.

"You save special things for special places," Howard said. "This is a special place in my heart."

Casper's ghost

Remember the Holy Roller?

That was the fourth-down fumble that three Oakland players deliberately batted into the end zone before Dave Casper recovered it for the winning touchdown against San Diego in 1978.

The result was that the league passed a rule that a fourth-down fumble can only be advanced by the player who fumbles. The idea was to stop other teams from pulling off the same maneuver.

That rule change helped knock the Redskins out of the playoffs Sunday.

Matt Turk was lined up to punt in the fourth quarter when Arizona's Tommy Bennett beat James Jenkins so easily that Turk couldn't get his foot on the ball.

It bounced forward to Jenkins, who ran for a first down.

But since Turk was the only Redskin who could advance the fumble, the ball was ruled dead at the spot of the recovery and the Cardinals took over, scoring three plays later. It put them in position to win the game on Kevin Butler's field goal at the final gun.

The Redskins argued in vain that it was a blocked punt, which they could advance.

Quarterback Gus Frerotte said: "You think you've seen it all. Just come to one of our games."

Milestone for Elway

John Elway has never won a Super Bowl, but he achieved another milestone Sunday -- his 126th victory.

No quarterback has ever won more. It moved him ahead of Fran Tarkenton, another quarterback who never won a Super Bowl, but had 125 victories.

Elway had an edge because he played his whole career in the era of the 16-game season, but it was still quite a feat.

"That definitely means a lot," Elway said. "I've always thought quarterbacks get too much credit and too much blame. But quarterbacks are judged by wins and losses and wins are what it's all about."

Elway's got his best chance at a Super Bowl ring this year because he's got a running game and a defense that he didn't have in his three previous trips.

Parting shots

Dan Reeves, who figures to get fired next week as the New York Giants coach, is likely to coach quarterback Dave Brown for the last time Saturday against New England.

That can't come soon enough for either.

When Reeves stuck with Danny Kanell in the second half of a 17-3 loss to New Orleans on Sunday after Brown came out with a shoulder injury, Brown said, "It's tough enough in this city to play because there's so much scrutiny. When you don't have the confidence from the inside, it makes it really tough to play."

Reeves wasn't going to let that pass. "I think confidence comes from people getting the job done," he said.

Bill of silence

The Patriots-Giants game features Bill Parcells' return to the Meadowlands to coach against his old team, but he's not commenting on that.

"I'm not saying anything, OK? You got it? Straight. I'm not saying nothing. Period. No disrespect intended," he said.

We got it, Bill.

Falcons follies

The Atlanta Falcons' sideline has been an explosive place this year.

Things started to go bad for the Falcons when Jeff George blew up at coach June Jones after being yanked against Philadelphia on Sept. 22. George was then suspended and eventually released.

He was replaced by Bobby Hebert, who threw six interceptions Sunday against the St. Louis Rams and blew up at offensive lineman Antone Davis.

"I'm not going to tell the truth because the truth would hurt the team," Hebert said.

But he then added, "All I know is that they couldn't play for [Dan] Marino. Either they want a leader or they don't want a leader."

One port in a storm

Rick Venturi, New Orleans' interim coach, is 3-47-1 as a head coach at Northwestern and interim stints with the Saints and Indianapolis Colts.

But he's 2-0 at Giants Stadium. "That's amazing," he said.

By the numbers

Green Bay is 25-1 in its past 26 games at Lambeau Field. Pittsburgh had a 13-game home winning streak broken last Sunday by San Francisco. Minnesota is 14-6 in December since Dennis Green was hired in 1992, the best December record in the NFL in that span. New England is 0-7 against Dallas. Jerry Rice has caught 100 passes for his third straight season -- a feat no other player has ever accomplished.

Pub Date: 12/18/96

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