New York, New York: tale of two QBs


Just a year ago, Dave Brown and Neil O'Donnell were in two of the highest-profile positions in sports -- quarterbacks of the two New York teams.

Now, Brown is a backup in Arizona and O'Donnell is locked in a battle of wills with Jets coach Bill Parcells. They're eyeball to eyeball, and neither has blinked.

Brown conceded he wasn't going to be a starting quarterback when he signed as the backup to Jake Plummer in Arizona.

"Jake's the guy," Brown said. "He has shown he deserves to be the guy. I understand that. But anywhere I'd go, I'd be the backup. I wanted to go somewhere where I'm wanted."

O'Donnell could be destined to be a backup if he's cut after June 1. That's the date teams can ship out veterans and delay much of the salary cap hit until next year.

Unless John Elway retires in Denver, there are no starting jobs open.

Parcells is willing to keep O'Donnell if he accepts a pay cut.

That's a sensitive issue for O'Donnell, who left a good situation in Pittsburgh two years ago for a five-year, $25 million offer from the Jets.

If he wanted to play for less money, he could have stayed in Pittsburgh on a Super Bowl contender. He's due to make $4.25 million in base salary this year.

O'Donnell doesn't seem convinced Parcells will cut him, leaving the Jets with injury-prone Glenn Foley as a starter. Parcells hasn't allowed O'Donnell to work out at the team's facility in the off-season because he doesn't want to risk O'Donnell getting injured.

Parcells may believe he can cut O'Donnell and re-sign him for less if O'Donnell finds he can't get a better deal anywhere else.

O'Donnell's agent, Leigh Steinberg, said: "Neil hasn't changed his position. This was a contract he bargained for. He's a veteran who has taken a team to the Super Bowl. In his mind, there should not be any issue of him starting."

Parcells isn't closing the door. "I've definitely never said he's not going to be back. I've been very careful on that," the coach said.

Sometime after June 1, O'Donnell will find out if Parcells is bluffing.

Looking for work

While O'Donnell is battling with Parcells, the player he made the MVP of Super Bowl XXX -- Larry Brown -- is unemployed.

Brown got the MVP honors when O'Donnell threw two interceptions right into his arms to help the Dallas Cowboys beat the Steelers, 27-17.

Brown parlayed those two interceptions into a five-year, $12.5 million deal with the Oakland Raiders, but he has started just one game since the Super Bowl.

He had a foot injury two years ago and was suspended last year for conduct detrimental to the team -- his poor practice habits.

The Raiders have told him to look for another team, although they probably won't make his release official until June 1.

B. Johnson a question mark

The Minnesota Vikings spent big money in the off-season to retain free agents John Randle, Todd Steussie and Robert Smith.

But it won't make any difference if quarterback Brad Johnson doesn't recover from the neck injury he suffered last year.

The Vikings still hope he'll be ready for training camp, but he wasn't ready for minicamp this weekend.

"I'm just going to kind of sit back and drink Gatorade and relax a little bit," he said. "Hopefully, the sun's out, and I'll catch some rays."

At this point, Johnson can only throw 10 to 15 yards.

"I would love to play, but I'm not going to force the issue. I'm improved in the past month, but I'm still not 100 percent by any means," he said.

Flutie's contributions

Doug Flutie, who is trying to make a comeback in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, has established the Douglas Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism because his son, Doug, has severe autism.

He contributed half of the $25,000 signing bonus he got from the Bills to set up the charity. He donated the other half to the Hunter's Hope Foundation, a charity headed by former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, whose 1-year-old son, Hunter, suffers from Krabbe's disease, a degenerative disorder of the nervous system that typically kills its victims in the first 13 months.

Flutie said of his son's illness: "It makes you appreciate the little things in life a lot more."

Taking risks

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman, a Poly graduate, has no second thoughts about his decision to pass up a long-term deal with a $3 million signing bonus to play for $1.153 million this year and become a free agent next year.

"It's a chancy risk, but all my life I've been a risk taker," he said.

"Football is a one-play sport. One play, you're a hero; one play, you might be on crutches for a year.

"I'm not going to lie. I want what some of what these other guys are getting."

He has his eye on the five-year, $21 million deal that Yancey Thigpen got from the Tennessee Oilers. Freeman said the Packers offered $11 million for four years.

"I didn't sleep for about a week," he said. "I tossed and turned for a whole week. I talked to my family. I talked to everybody -- business advisers, agents, whatever. I brainstormed, but my idea was the most important. I had to be a man and not be afraid to stand for myself for what I believe is right. That's what I did."

The other risk is that he might not be the same receiver if he leaves Green Bay because he wouldn't have Brett Favre throwing to him.

Getting serious

When the San Francisco 49ers signed quarterback Ty Detmer, there was some question about whether Jim Druckenmiller had fallen out of favor.

Coach Steve Mariucci seems to think that his young quarterback has to get more serious about football. Druckenmiller missed a charter flight to Atlanta last year, a no-no for a rookie.

"We have not lost faith in this guy," Mariucci said, "Ty Detmer is a heck of a player who was interested in coming here, and we wanted to upgrade the spot."

Druckenmiller said: "There's no way I was not and am not committed to football. I just believe you can have fun on the side."

Druckenmiller found time in the off-season to make Mardi Gras in New Orleans and spend time with his girlfriend, Julie Cialini, Playboy's 1995 Playmate of the Year.

Close call

Rookie quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts escaped injury when a car he was a passenger in was rear-ended by a drunken driver while stopped at a traffic light in Knoxville, Tenn., last week


"They can call me the Samoan bus."

-- Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, a 250-pound running back who wore No. 6 at Utah because that was Jerome Bettis' number at Notre Dame, on being drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round.

Pub Date: 5/03/98

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