- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

It's the last season of six divisions. It's the first season that a quarterback who won the Super Bowl in January (Trent Dilfer) is with another team in September. It's the last year for the Silverdome and Foxboro Stadium and the first for Heinz Field.

Welcome to NFL 2001. Houston is coming back (next year) and Houston native/Washington Redskin Darrell Green is going (next year after a record 19 seasons by a cornerback). Baltimore is the defending champion for the first time since 1971 but the second straight (following St. Louis) to win the Super Bowl in just its fifth year in its new city.

But the buzz around the league isn't about the Ravens or even about some of the surprising final cuts (Buffalo safety Henry Jones being the prime example). The talk centers around the replacement officials, who by all accounts, did pretty well during their preseason tuneups last week. Redskins linebacker Shawn Barber thought his team's game was called a little bit looser than usual, but tight end Stephen Alexander didn't even realize the officials were the replacements until he was told at halftime. However, the big test comes this weekend when the games mean something and the starters play the whole way.

"What I think is going to be most difficult for them is not going to be the application of the rules, but whether they can stand up under the scrutiny that every NFL official has to," said Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer. "It's pretty tough duty."

If the replacements do well this weekend, that will only help the NFL's leverage.

Trivia time Minnesota kicker Gary Anderson, a South African, and New York Giants kicker Morten Andersen, a Dane, are the NFL's first and third all-time scorers. Who's the leading active American scorer? (Answer below).

No hope for Ryan The second pick in the 1998 draft, Ryan Leaf, couldn't make Tampa Bay as a third-string quarterback after bombing in San Diego. Leaf is arguably the biggest bust since Heisman Trophy winning passer Terry Baker couldn't cut it with the Rams back in 1963-1965. In three seasons with the Chargers (one of which he spent on injured reserve), Leaf went 4-14 as a starter, threw 33 interceptions and just 13 touchdown passes, posted an anemic 48.8 rating and alienated countless people with his surly attitude.

Imagine that prior to draft day 1998 there was a debate about who was better, Washington State's Leaf, "the athletic one," or Tennessee's Peyton Manning, "the smart one." All Manning has done is put together the best first three seasons by any quarterback not named Dan Marino while leading Indianapolis to the playoffs twice. Leaf's latest misadventure was flunking his physical for quarterback-starved Dallas.

It means nothing but … Seattle's untested Matt Hasselbeck (116.0) was third among NFL starters in the preseason quarterback ratings, trailing only Denver's Brian Griese and San Francisco's Jeff Garcia, who combined for 50 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions last year. The other neophyte starting quarterbacks, Carolina's Chris Weinke (57.6) and Dallas' Quincy Carter (66.0), didn't fare nearly as well. Weinke will be the first fourth-round draft pick to start an opener since Baltimore's Mike Pagel in 1982.

Don't blame the turf The season-ending broken ankle suffered by Philadelphia center Bubba Miller in last week's game with the Jets had nothing to do with the NeXturf field at Veterans Stadium. However, Vet workers who caused the preseason opener to be canceled because of their shoddy jobs goofed again by leaving the cutouts that cover the baseball bases in the parking lot to dry after the game. Fans partied on the cutouts.

Just for openers Atlanta coach Dan Reeves is 27-8 in openers as a player and coach with the Cowboys, Denver, the Giants and Falcons. Sunday's foe, San Francisco, is working on an NFL-record streak of 370 games without being shut out… . Tampa Bay halfback Warrick Dunn produced 775 yards of offense in the last five games of 2000, and he starts this year against a Dallas defense which he ran through for 210 yards last December. Watch out.

Ex-Redskin note of the week Atlanta, Dallas, Green Bay and Jacksonville are the only teams without a player or coach who worked for former Redskins coach Norv Turner in Washington from 1994 to 2000. Kansas City's ex-Norv club has a league-high five members: quarterback Trent Green, defensive end Rich Owens, linebacker Marvcus Patton, receiver Chris Thomas and defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz.

Trivia answer Buffalo kicker Steve Christie is the next leading active scorer behind Anderson and Andersen with 1,174 points, but he's Canadian. So the answer is Oakland's Jerry Rice with 1,130 points on 187 touchdowns and four two-point conversions.

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