- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

NFL NOTEBOOK

Twelve teams found new No.1 quarterbacks between the start of free agency last winter and the middle of last season. However, it would be a surprise if there are half as many changes at the NFL's most critical position this year.
The biggest reason for the expected lack of movement is the emergence last season of such young talents as Atlanta's Michael Vick, the New York Jets' Chad Pennington, Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck and San Diego's Drew Brees, along with rookies David Carr of Houston, Joey Harrington of Detroit and Patrick Ramsey of Washington.
Veterans Brad Johnson of Tampa Bay and Jon Kitna of Cincinnati solidified their holds on starting jobs while Drew Bledsoe put up big numbers in his new home in Buffalo and Tommy Maddox emerged from years of obscurity to beat out Kordell Stewart in Pittsburgh.
What's more, the only starting passers who are scheduled to become free agents two weeks from today are Arizona's Jake Plummer, Carolina's Rodney Peete and Baltimore's Jeff Blake (who battled Chris Redman for the job last year). Chicago's Jim Miller, who is coming off rotator cuff surgery, could join that group. Cleveland's Tim Couch, Dallas' Chad Hutchinson and Denver's Brian Griese are in danger of being deposed.
But even if all those teams switch quarterbacks, that's only seven changes with no true big name among them.
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo vowed that "no stone will be unturned" in the search for a quarterback. Wonder if that includes Mick Jagger and Keith Richards?
Bear-ly there Injuries were a big factor in Chicago's plunge from da bomb of 2001 to plain old bomb in 2002. The Bears started 47 players, with only five receiver Marty Booker, offensive tackle Big Cat Williams, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, cornerback Jerry Azumah and free safety Mike Green starting every week. Urlacher, by the way, broke Hall of Famer Dick Butkus' 30-year-old team tackle record with 214.
Chicago's 4-12 record gave it the fourth pick in April's draft. That's probably good news for the Bears, who have selected three Hall of Famers running backs Gale Sayers (1965) and Walter Payton (1975) and defensive tackle Dan Hampton (1979) fourth overall.
Spencer for hire If cornerback Jimmy Spencer makes Denver's roster, he'll be the NFL's first player/coach since Dan Reeves was a halfback/offensive assistant in Dallas in 1970 and 1971. Spencer was named assistant secondary coach last Friday. Reeves' precedent is a good one for the Broncos, because the Cowboys went to the Super Bowl both those seasons.
Home in the desert The Arizona Cardinals, who have been playing at Arizona State since coming to the desert in 1988, are finally getting a stadium of their own, probably in 2006.
After nearly two years of site selection snafus and legal challenges, the Tourism and Sports Authority has begun selling bonds to help finance a retractable roof facility to be built in Glendale on a plot next to the NHL Coyotes' new arena. Groundbreaking is expected later this month. And by 2006, maybe the Cardinals will have a team worthy of their new digs.
No rift St. Louis coach Mike Martz strongly denied a report that offensive coordinator Bobby Jackson retired in a snit over a reported fight between the old friends that was going to result in diminished authority for Jackson. When Jackson came to the Rams in 2000, he told Martz that he might retire this year. Jackson, 62, apparently reiterated that point before last season and during the bye week in October, Jackson and his wife looked for property in Alabama on which to build their retirement house.
"I'm sure Bobby was somewhat unhappy, as we all were, with the season," said Martz, who bought Jackson a saddle as a retirement gift. "But there was nothing personal."
Ricky goes Hawaiian
Miami running back Ricky Williams can only dream of the NFL putting an expansion team in Hawaii. Williams, the MVP of this month's Pro Bowl, won similar honors in his only other game on the Islands, the 1999 Hula Bowl.
Boys will be boys
Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter accused Tennessee strength coach Steve Watterson of throwing hot coffee on him when he chased Titans quarterback Steve McNair into the home bench during the Jan.11 divisional playoff game in Nashville. Watterson, whom Porter called the "short, bald-headed coach," denied the charge and the Titans said they keep hot chicken soup, not coffee, on the sideline, during cold weather.
So there could have been some tension with the Titans' staff coaching the AFC Pro Bowl squad, which included Porter. Instead, Watterson received a Gatorade salute from him.
"We joked around about it all week," Porter said. "I was going to dump Rogaine on him, but that was too expensive. I thought about using Super Glue on his glasses, but I couldn't find them. Finally, I decided to get him back in the traditional way."


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