Broncos' QB switch leaves backup Brister bristling


Just a week ago, Denver Broncos quarterback Bubby Brister was ticked at the local writers for paying too much attention to his poor play in the exhibition season.

"It's good for me because it lets me see where everybody is. It lets me know what side of the fence you're on," Brister said. "It will probably be a rocky road throughout the season, and that's just [because of] the way you guys report it."

Brister said that since the Broncos are a veteran Super Bowl team, they don't put much emphasis on preseason games, so he shouldn't be judged until they crank it up for the regular season.

What Brister didn't realize is that his coach, Mike Shanahan, was on the other side of the fence. He benched Brister for second-year quarterback Brian Griese last week in a stunning move.

Shanahan may be right that the Broncos are better off with Griese starting and Brister coming off the bench. Brister has never been better than a journeyman.

But Shanahan mishandled the situation. He should have called Brister in the day John Elway retired and said he was going to open it up for competition. Brister and Griese should have each started two games in an open competition so Griese wouldn't have spent all his time playing against backups.

Instead, Shanahan blindsided Brister, who then lambasted the coach by saying he came back only for his teammates and that if it had been just between him and Shanahan, he would have left.

Shanahan tried to defuse the situation, saying he understood Brister was bitter because he's a competitor. He even praised Brister.

"When the going gets tough, you want Bubby in your corner," Shanahan said. "He's a guy that is a warrior. He's a guy that if you're in a street fight, you want him right behind you."

The perception in Denver, though, is that Brister may be out the door as soon as Chris Miller is healthy. The perception could be wrong, but Shanahan has built a reputation for being such a control freak that he may not tolerate Brister's outburst. One reporter who wrote a book with Shanahan even charged Brister with insubordination.

Broncos safety Tyrone Braxton said, "Mike doesn't forget things like that."

Meanwhile, Shanahan goes into the first Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins -- Griese's father's old team -- with an inexperienced starting quarterback and a mutinous backup.

The NFL has seen wrestling make inroads into its TV ratings among the young fans. Let the WWF top this. And this is real.

Slap on the wrist

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When the NFL passes out drug suspensions, it increases the penalty for repeated violations.

For cheap shots, though, it's content to hand out a slap on the wrist.

Safety Rodney Harrison of the San Diego Chargers was fined only $15,000 for two hits to the head of St. Louis Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce.

Harrison wasn't fined at all for the hit that knocked out Rams quarterback Trent Green for the season. The league's explanation was that he was coming off a block, even though he appeared to lunge at the back of Green's legs.

Harrison has a long rap sheet. He made Sports Illustrated's "Dirty Dozen" list last year, but the league doesn't take cheap shots very seriously. It's too busy selling its "Crunch" videos.

The Rams were furious about the hit that knocked out Green.

Fred Miller, who got a penalty for going after Harrison, said, "You could tell the guy was truly out to hurt somebody. That's just the type of player he is, and we saw that on film. He likes to come up and give a couple of cheap shots."

The Rams now have to try to survive with former Arena Football quarterback Kurt Warner.

The timing couldn't be better for the Ravens, who open against the Rams in Warner's starting debut next Sunday.

This continues a trend that helped Ravens coach Brian Billick when he was in Minnesota last year.

The list of quarterbacks the Vikings faced included Charlie Batch (twice), Gus Frerotte, Billy Joe Tolliver, Steve Stenstrom and Jonathan Quinn. Now Billick can add Warner to the list.

Watch your language

It's difficult to get worked up about holdouts these days because they usually pit millionaires against millionaires or billionaires.

But John Tait's holdout in Kansas City took a strange twist last week. Tait, the first offensive lineman taken in this year's draft, apparently had reached an agreement, but there was a snag when he came in with his agent to sign.

Chiefs president Carl Peterson then started cursing Tait. A devout Mormon, Tait was offended and walked out. Peterson then apologized to Tait's father and is trying to set up a visit to Tait's home to make amends.

Meanwhile, Tait's agent, Ethan Lock, was upset when he heard that coach Gunther Cunningham characterized Tait as a "jellyfish" who could be smacked around.

Lock then knocked Cunningham, saying he was a coach controlled by Peterson. He said Cunningham was Peterson's "foot-shuffling porter."

Jets-Giants rivalry

Don't tell Bill Parcells that the Jets-Giants preseason game is just an exhibition.

A native of New Jersey, Parcells knows the New York-area fans take it seriously, and he boosted his record to 10-1 in the series last week when the Jets beat the Giants, 16-10.

Parcells was 7-1 against the Jets as Giants coach and is 3-0 with the Jets against Giants coach Jim Fassel. Fassel is just a tourist in New York and appears to have no feel for the town or the rivalry.

While Fassel treated it like an exhibition game, Parcells started backup quarterback Ray Lucas for one obviously scripted series that produced a touchdown drive before he brought in Vinny Testaverde. When the Giants tried to rally at the end, Parcells put linebacker Bryan Cox back into the game and had him blitzing.

Parcells knows the New York-area fans want to have their team win the Giants-Jets exhibition. After all, he grew up as one of them.

Around the league

Barbara Frye, who worked for the Washington Redskins for more than two decades, and was the secretary for general managers Bobby Beathard and Charley Casserly, was the latest staff member to be fired last week by new owner Daniel Snyder as he continued his purge of the team's front office.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were division champions last year, but have the sixth-easiest schedule in the league this year, mainly because they were the only AFC Central team with a winning record last season.

The Dallas Cowboys will open the season with both starting cornerbacks -- Deion Sanders (toe) and Kevin Smith (back) -- out for several weeks.


"I didn't feel good about the leadership of the squad last year. On offense or defense. In my opinion, our quarterback [Tony Banks] wasn't providing leadership. I never saw him provide leadership. I thought he was a tough guy. I thought he was a good guy. But I never thought he was a leader."

-- St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator John Bunting on former Rams quarterback Tony Banks, now the Ravens' backup.

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