- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

Vinny Cerrato became the 103rd ex-employee of the Boy Owner-led local NFL team this week.

That number, unencumbered by the personnel in uniform and Frostburg, Md., fired in a two-sentence fax last year, is subject to interpretation and the Boy Owner's spin doctors.

The number includes Phyllis Hayes and Gunnar Jurgensen, Sonny's son. The latter was escorted from his office at the stadium after he failed to meet the Boy Owner's sales quota on coffee mugs and jerseys last season.

This possibly changes the dynamics between Sonny and the Boy Owner, if not their seating arrangement at practice in July.

Blood is said to be thicker than merchandise, but even old ex-quarterbacks like to have a voice and someone with whom to share a stogie.

Cerrato was the team's director of player personnel, if you're inclined to give him the benefit of doubt. The title sounded more impressive than lap dog.

Cerrato learned to fetch, roll over and wag his tail around the Boy Owner, useful tricks, to be sure, but not essential to the cause.

By removing the collar and leash from Cerrato's wardrobe, Marty Schottenheimer exercised his power. He is in charge, as advertised. Schottenheimer has some Alexander Haig in him.

But this is January, the offseason for the local NFL team. The real test comes later.

Meanwhile, the other local NFL team is in Tampa, Fla., defending the indefensible, Ray Lewis, who must be getting tired from lugging around a cross. He feels like Jesus. He acts like a thug.

"Jesus didn't please everybody," Lewis said this week.

The sacrilegious-like reach goes almost unnoticed, perhaps because of the big-game atmosphere. Perspective is the third casualty, coming as it does after the two dead men in Atlanta.

This dim thinking was preserved by the dead on the beaches of Normandy. Excuse the heavy-handedness, but one heavy hand deserves another. Football is the game that pretends to be a metaphor for war.

Football also comes cloaked in self-importance, and this space is part of the process, guilty as charged. Hip, hip, hooray. Pass the thesaurus and flip to the superlatives. Great: eminent, excellent.

No wonder the reasoning ability of the self-important is often stilted, primitive. They are impressionable, no longer under the protection of an academic tutor.

"I wish you all could know this guy personally," Shannon Sharpe said this week.

That is a loaded wish, if staying healthy is a concern.

Four dead in Ohio, two dead in Atlanta and another one bites the dust in Ashburn.

Cerrato wanted to believe his job was safe with the local NFL team, despite all the evidence to the contrary. He contributed to the revolving door atmosphere, then was victimized by it.

"What goes around comes around," Casper R. Taylor said last July.

Taylor is the speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, the Democrat who represents Allegany County and Frostburg's good name. He was speaking of the Boy Owner at the time, although if prodded, he could have applied the expression to Cerrato as well.

Cerrato is hoping to land on all four paws, and in that regard, he is overqualified.

Otherwise, he merits an asterisk as a personnel guru, largely because of the Boy Owner's national reputation as a serial meddler. Cerrato is credited with making the Tito Paul trade, if only because the Boy Owner is reluctant to claim it.

Schottenheimer is showing his muscle before the honeymoon starts to wane. This is his show the spin peddled during his unveiling and Cerrato is the first person to confirm it.

Schottenheimer professed not to be aware of Cerrato's special relationship with the Boy Owner. He certainly cut the festive mood. The pink slip was delivered two days before Cerrato was scheduled to join the Boy Owner on the trip to Tampa.

Hopefully, the local NFL team will be able to recover from the loss.

No word on whether Cerrato was rewarded with a parting treat.

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