MIAMI -- Forget Dan Reeves vs. Mike Shanahan. Ray Buchanan and Shannon Sharpe took an insurmountable lead in the Super Bowl name-calling contest yesterday.
Buchanan said Sharpe looks like Mr. Ed, and Sharpe said Buchanan should put away his high heels. The war of words worthy of pro wrasslin' was waged by two players separated by 20 miles but linked by a media eager to fuel the feud.
"Shannon can always win, because he can talk," said Buchanan, the Atlanta Falcons' Pro Bowl cornerback. "But Shannon looks like a horse. I'll tell you, that's an ugly dude. You can't tell me he doesn't look like Mr. Ed."
Buchanan's comments were quickly relayed by reporters to Sharpe, the Denver Broncos' Pro Bowl tight end.
"Ray said that?" Sharpe responded. "Well, I think he's ugly, but did I ever call him that? No.
"Tell Ray to put the eyeliner, the lipstick and the high heels away. I'm not saying he's a cross-dresser; that's just what I heard."
Sharpe calls himself the best trash-talker in the NFL, but he has met his match in Buchanan, who guaranteed a victory for the Falcons, then stole the spotlight at media day by showing up in a dog collar symbolic of their underdog status.
Yesterday's barbs were the most pointed yet, though delivered with a nudge and wink. Both players talk with tongue in cheek.
"If I see Ray in a snowstorm," Sharpe said, "and his truck is broken down and mine is running perfect, would I pick him up? No."
More likely, the 230-pound Sharpe and the 195-pound Buchanan will cross paths Sunday. Buchanan made reference to the mild concussion Sharpe suffered in the third quarter of the AFC championship game.
"He'd better watch out for himself, because he might get knocked out like he did that last game," Buchanan said.
Sharpe responded: "I'm not hard to find -- I'm No. 84, and I've got the biggest mouth on the field. I'll be looking for him also."
In one of this Super Bowl's many ironies, Denver wide receiver Ed McCaffrey gets a chance to redeem himself against the coach who cut him four years ago.
McCaffrey was a three-year veteran wide receiver with the New York Giants when then-coach Reeves released him on the second day of training camp in 1994.
McCaffrey caught on with the San Francisco 49ers that season, where Shanahan was offensive coordinator. He moved to Denver in 1995 when Shanahan took over as coach of the Broncos.
This season, McCaffrey became a Pro Bowl receiver with 64 catches and 10 touchdowns, and earned a major mea culpa from Reeves, now coach of the Falcons.
"That was probably one of the biggest mistakes that I've ever made," Reeves said. "I don't know if I ever had a player that I released turn out to be as great a player as Ed McCaffrey."
McCaffrey appreciates Reeves' confession.
"It meant a lot to me," he said. "Everybody makes a mistake. It's a statement he didn't have to make. It never feels good to be rejected. [But] it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me."
Secret's out on Tuggle
For 12 years, Jessie Tuggle has been one of the best-kept secrets in the NFL.
The Atlanta linebacker will play in his fifth Pro Bowl next year, but he has gotten little notice because he usually has played on losing teams.
Teammmate Chuck Smith even said that if Tuggle had played his career in San Francisco or Dallas, he'd be touted as a future Hall of Famer.
"Chuck gave me a great compliment when he made that particular comment. It's really hard to say how far I would be in my career if I was on a winning team, but at the same time, I played hard each and every week."
Tuggle said he never considered leaving as a free agent.
"I wanted to be part of the solution here. And that makes it that much sweeter for me. This has been a long time coming and I'm just trying to seize the moment," he said.
Bernie Kukar, a 15-year veteran, will referee his first Super Bowl on Sunday.
The other officials are umpire Jim Daopoulos, head linesman Sanford Rivers, line judge Ron Baynes, field judge Tim Millis, side judge Gary Lane and back judge Don Hakes. Referee Gerry Austin and umpire Chad Brown will be alternates.
Falcons on mend
Tim Dwight, Atlanta's rookie receiver-kick returner, practiced yesterday despite a stomach virus. Dwight made it through the entire 2-hour, 15-minute session.
Also participating in the entire workout were defensive end Lester Archambeau and fullback-tight end Brian Kozlowski. Archambeau is bothered by an ankle injury and Kozlowski has had a foot problem.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 1/29/99