Running backs Edgerrin James and Ricky Williams will appear today on the same field in a game that counts for the first time since they supplied intrigue in the 1999 NFL draft.
That was the year the Indianapolis Colts, looking for a runner to go with quarterback Peyton Manning, shook things up by taking James with the fourth pick. The New Orleans Saints then took Williams with the fifth pick after trading their entire draft to get the Heisman Trophy winner.
As with his selection of Manning over Ryan Leaf in 1998, Colts general manager Bill Polian knew what he was doing. James won the league rushing title in each of his first two seasons and helped send the Colts into the playoffs, while Williams languished in New Orleans.
But the fortunes of the two running backs started to turn last year. James suffered a season-ending knee injury in October and missed the last 10 games. Williams rushed for a career-best 1,245 yards with the Saints. Better yet, he was traded in March to the Miami Dolphins, where he no longer had to account for the Saints' infamous draft trade.
When the Dolphins visit Indianapolis today, it will provide a better test of where each player stands. The Dolphins believe the addition of Williams makes them a Super Bowl contender. Last week's 49-21 rout of Detroit, in which Williams rushed for 111 yards, reinforced that belief.
Williams has gone from a grudging interview subject to talking freely about his treatment for social anxiety disorder, which had him doing interviews in his helmet in New Orleans. James, meanwhile, has stopped talking to the local media in Indianapolis and wants his contract renegotiated. The Colts don't expect him to be 100 percent post-surgery until November.
Polian opted for James because he suited the Colts' offense better than Williams.
"It was a tough call, a much tougher call than the quarterbacks were," he said. "Because Ricky is an outstanding running back who possesses incredible strength and incredible balance and incredible ability to gain yards after contact. ... He's every bit as much a psychological weapon as a physical weapon. He wears a team down."
It's in the release
If you're looking for today's quarterback who most resembles John Unitas, go no further than the Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre. He has the same leadership qualities and the same kind of ability to deliver the ball. He just doesn't have Unitas' impeccable mechanics.
Ron Wolf, the retired general manager of the Packers and the man who brought Favre to Green Bay, says they have almost identical releases.
"Watch Favre and Unitas and it's the same," Wolf said. "Don't watch the feet. Watch how the ball is thrown. There's a remarkable resemblance between those two people, from the waist up."
There's one other similarity, at least. Both quarterbacks were three-time Most Valuable Players.
Sam I Am
The Oakland Raiders limited defensive tackle Sam Adams to 28 of 51 defensive snaps against Seattle, and later coach Bill Callahan said it was part of the plan to get the former Ravens Pro Bowl player in shape.
"He's working hard on that reduction plan and his conditioning is getting there," Callahan said.
Adams' response: "He said that? Given the opportunity, they'll see what I can do. But I didn't get the opportunity, did I? And you can tell [Callahan] I said that, since he chose to go that route."
Getting their attention
The Denver Broncos are only 26-23 since winning the Super Bowl in the 1998 season, and coach Mike Shanahan sent a stern message to his team last week when he nearly benched quarterback Brian Griese in the third quarter of an upset win over the St. Louis Rams. He wasn't concerned that Griese would worry about being replaced by backup Steve Beuerlein.
"Everybody's looking over their shoulder," Shanahan said. "If you're not looking over your shoulder in this profession, then something's wrong with you. I don't care if you're a corner, safety. That's the nature of this job. If you go out there and do it, then you keep your job."
They said it
"Hey, we were 3-0 last year, weren't we? The champagne was pouring out of our lockers. We don't do that this year." - San Diego Chargers defensive end Marcellus Wiley on a 34-6 win at Cincinnati.
"I'm just amazed by how fast he is compared to everybody else on the field. I was trying to think what I could compare it to. It was like basketball on grass."
- Chicago Bears scout Bobby DePaul on Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick.
"Well, I've got to give credit to my offensive line."
- Kansas City Chiefs tackle John Tait after lumbering 28 yards with a lateral from quarterback Trent Green to set up a winning field goal against Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns are fast becoming the hard-luck team in the NFL. They are 7-10 under second-year coach Butch Davis, but four of the 10 losses came on the last play of the game, including last week's numbing 40-39 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. ... New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins has had more than 300 passing yards in four consecutive games, but three of them are losses. Of his past six 300-yard games, five are losses. ... The Rams are 2-7 under coach Mike Martz when they have fewer than 20 rushes and 24-4 when they have 20 or more. ... After the Houston Texans beat the Dallas Cowboys in their inaugural game, Texans owner Bob McNair received a bouquet of flowers from Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. ... The Giants, who play in St. Louis today with a three-game losing streak going back to last year, have not lost four in a row under coach Jim Fassel.
The last word
Hall of Fame receiver Raymond Berry sat at his home in Golden, Colo., last week after news of Unitas' death broke and fielded some 40 calls from reporters seeking his perspective. With a heavy heart, he took names and numbers and dutifully called reporters back - some several times until he got them. Why would he go to that extreme?
"John Unitas was a once-in-a-lifetime person to know, to play with," Berry said. "So at his death, this once-in-a-lifetime experience is expected.
"There'll never be another like him."
Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.