New Orleans linebacker Jim Kovach, who made the tackle on Walter Payton's record-breaking six-yard carry in Chicago, enjoyed his moment in the spotlight.

"I'm holding out for a card on Trivial Pursuit," said Kovach. "My agent and I are waiting to negotiate."

Meanwhile, as Payton was writing himself into pro football's annals, Seattle running back Franco Harris was having his problems in Los Angeles, gaining only 13 yards on nine carries in the Sea-hawks' 28-14 loss to the Raiders.

The 13-year veteran, who was passed by Payton on the alltime rushing list on Sept. 23, has gained just 147 yards (for a 29.4-yard-per-game average) and hasn't scored a touchdown since joining the Seahawks on Sept. 9. After Sunday's game, Harris was asked what he thought of Payton's achievement. Harris was silent for a long time. Then he said softly, "Tell him, 'Congratulations.' "

No one in the NFL seemed surprised by reports last week that USFL owners had voted to authorize the league office to file an antitrust suit against the NFL. Said one NFL exec, "I said when the USFL was born that two things would happen: One, our salaries would spiral, and two, we'd be hit with an antitrust suit. That's the history of 'other leagues'—the Titanic plan. Football is the last thing they do well. They can't make it in the stands, so now they're going to see if they can make it in the courts. They figure by hitting us with a suit, they'll force a merger."

Insiders say the USFL's suit would seek more than $1.5 billion in damages because of the NFL's "monopolistic practices, specifically with regard to the television networks." The suit would be based in part on the USFL's inability so far to negotiate contracts with the three major networks for the 1986 season (and beyond), when, the league has said, it will shift from a spring to a fall schedule.

The Redskins' Joe Theismann, who had thrown only four touchdown passes going into Sunday's game in Indianapolis, finally got untracked—even if it was against the lowly Colt secondary. Theismann completed 17 of 20 attempts for 267 yards and four TDs. Afterward, he came up with a theory to explain why Miami's Dan Marino is so far ahead of him: "Marino's probably got half his touchdowns from five yards in."

Say, that ain't so, Joe. Only three of Marino's TD passes were launched from inside the five.

The Raider tight ends—Todd Christensen, Andy Parker, Derrick Jensen and Dave Casper—and assistant coach Bob Mischak took their wives to see Joe Namath in the musical Sugar on Sept. 28 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A.

As they settled in, somebody standing in the aisle said, "Excuse me, but you're in our seats."

Said Jensen, a la Bob Uecker: "Bingo. We must be in the front row."

The Raider group stood up, checked their tickets...and discovered they were late—by one night.

Ram running back Dwayne Crutchfield thinks the Falcon defenders were purposely trying to hurt his teammate Eric Dickerson in Sunday's 30-28 loss to Atlanta. But that doesn't surprise him.

"They were trying to intimidate him, hurt him," Crutchfield said. "They were piling on him when he was lying down. They were after him, no question in my mind.... I played against them [the Falcons] in New York [Crutchfield was with the Jets in 1982-83]. They try to let the linebacker hold you up and then blast you. I think it's pretty much their nature."

The Rumor of the Week has Cleveland owner Art Modell meeting with former President Gerald Ford to discuss putting together a syndicate to buy the L.A. Rams. Modell, the story goes, wants to come in for a minimal percentage—after selling his 54% interest in the Browns—but with managing general partner rights similar to those of the Raiders' Al Davis.

Well, what does Modell say to all this?

"I met with Gerald Ford in Cleveland last week," he says. "I hosted a political luncheon for a local congressional candidate, and Mr. Ford was present. He and I are board members of Twentieth Century Fox. The Browns have never been offered for sale, and I have never received any solicitations. As far as Mr. Ford and I go, we have no relationship other than being personal friends.

"I can tell you this: Because [Browns quarterback] Paul McDonald has been sacked 30 times this season, I've asked Mr. Ford to suit up at center. I'm still waiting for an answer."

Ford, of course, was Michigan's MVP in 1934. But Modell probably doesn't recall that the Wolverines went 1-7 that season, their worst since 1881.

Vince Ferragamo had the cast removed from his right hand last week, and the word is that the Ram quarterback will be ready to play Oct. 28 against the 49ers. But Ram coach John Robinson says he likes Jeff Kemp too much to play musical QBs. "Had Vince played better, there'd be no question," Robinson says. "I'll go by how I feel at the time."

In 10 quarters of action, Ferragamo was intercepted eight times and had the worst rating among NFL starters—29.2. Kemp's only been intercepted once in three games and has a 92.7 rating.

Ferragamo has concealed his disappointment so far. "Maybe you should tune in my TV show [Saturdays on channel 56 in Orange County]," he says. "I might reveal how I'm really feeling."

Bum Bright, a Texas A & M alumnus and the new owner of the Dallas Cowboys, explaining why he missed a Dallas-Green Bay game on Sept. 23 to preside over an executive committee meeting of the school's Board of Regents: "I owe a lot to Texas A & M. In the case of the Cowboys, I just owe a lot for them."

Paranoia time in Philadelphia. The pressure is mounting on Eagle coach Marion Campbell, who'll no doubt be out of a job if his 2-4 club doesn't continue to improve. Early in the season, owner Leonard Tose opined that his team had better personnel than it did in '80, a Super Bowl year. "I haven't seen any improvement," Tose said last week. "Marion's not in trouble. I'm in trouble."

Privately, several veterans are blaming offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda. In training camp, they say, Marchibroda had promised the Eagles would run a wide-open offense. When the season began, the team became conservative, never throwing from inside their own 25. "I execute the plays," says quarterback Ron Jaworski. "I don't call them."

The 49ers have had their share of miracles this season, but owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. doesn't think coach Bill Walsh is behind them all.

Last July, DeBartolo visited the Vatican and had an audience with Pope John Paul II. "There I was, standing before him, waiting to be blessed," DeBartolo says. "I had about 50 of my family's rosaries in my hand. And right before he laid his hand down to bless them, I slipped the 49ers schedule on top."

And, just in case that wasn't enough, "I was also holding the cloth Monsignor Peter Armstrong uses in our pregame prayers," DeBartolo says. "It was about 105 degrees, and the Pope wiped his forehead on it. Hey, that has to cover us."

Dan Marino played in his hometown, Pittsburgh, for the first time since he has been a pro, and the South Oakland section of 'the city will never be the same. His mother, Ronnie, cooked up an all-pro batch of lasagna, and Dan Sr. did his bit as proud papa when the Marinos played host to 15 Dolphins and many other family friends.

Not that No. 1 son, who had to round up several tickets for the game against the Steelers, let the homecoming go to his head. He was the first to arrive at a Saturday night meeting, and then went out and threw two TD passes in 6-0 Miami's 31-7 win.

It's quarterback controversy time again in Dallas.

With 1:29 left in the third quarter and the Cowboys trailing St. Louis 31-13 en route to a 31-20 defeat, coach Tom Landry pulled Gary Hogeboom in favor of Danny White. The Texas Stadium crowd gave White a standing ovation, and on his second series he directed a 98-yard TD drive. "That's what a backup's supposed to do," White said smugly. Said the Boomer, who had 143 yards passing before he was yanked, "It wasn't a good day at all. I'm not pleased I was taken out, but I'm not surprised, either."

Landry seems to have cooled a bit on Hogeboom, who hasn't been the savior he was supposed to be. He has completed 124 of 222 passes for 1,543 yards and four TDs, and has had five interceptions. Dallas, 4-2, has averaged only 18.8 points per game. Landry would like 28.

"Gary will probably start this week against the Redskins," Landry said carefully. "But that doesn't mean we won't change anything."

White, who senses the tide turning, backhanded this compliment to the Boomer: "I don't think he's played poorly enough to warrant a change." Of his coach, White said, "He's old Leave-the-Door-Ajar Landry. I guarantee you he's a step ahead of us. He ought to wait until Saturday to name his starter. What happens if he names me and I get run over on the Central Expressway? Then he has to start Gary, and how would that make Gary feel, knowing he wanted me to start in the first place?"

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DIAGRAM PHOTOJOHN BIEVERAt home in a rocking chair, Stenerud speculates that "I might keep kicking till I die." TWELVE ILLUSTRATIONS

ONE FROM THE BRONCOS' CHALKBOARD

Dan Reeves, the Broncos' head coach, has come up with a neat, if unsymmetrical, way to confuse defenses. By putting Dave Studdard, the left tackle, to the right of right tackle Ken Lanier, and tight ends Jim Wright and John Sawyer on the left side, the Broncos are messing up traditional concepts of the strong side. Essentially what results is a strong running side and a strong passing side.

"It forces the defense to make adjustments both ways, without really creating a lot of complications for us," says Alex Gibbs, Denver's offensive line coach.

The strong safety is the man on the hot seat. He has to make a quick decision. If he figures Denver will pass, he covers the tight ends' side. But if he thinks the Broncos will run, he goes into what Reeves calls "force" coverage on the tackles' side.

Denver quarterback John Elway reads the safety and calls the plays accordingly. For instance, when the safety is on the tight ends' side, Elway might audible a toss sweep, as diagramed above.

Reeves has added other wrinkles: The wideout on the tackles' side drops off the line, thus making Studdard an eligible receiver, or a third tackle is added in the usual left tackle slot.

HERE'S ONE OLDIE STILL GETTING HIS KICKS

"You really ought to take a picture of me wearing diapers," says Jan Stenerud, the Minnesota Viking kicker who owns up to being 41. "I feel like such a young babe."

Stenerud fell in love with the rocking chair used as a prop for the picture, below, and he now has one in front of his locker at the Vikings' training facility. The 18-year veteran happens to be the oldest guy on the Vikings, not to mention the entire NFL, so Minnesota p.r. man Merrill Swanson got Stenerud his own rocker at a flea market.

"My parents ask what I'm going to do when I grow up," says Stenerud, who's the only active player left from the American Football League, which ceased to exist in 1970. Since being traded in July from Green Bay to the Vikes, his third pro team, Stenerud has been rejuvenated. He has scored 57 of the Vikings' 129 points this season, has converted 15 of 16 field-goal tries (including a 54-yarder) and has made 12 of 12 extra points. He's the second leading alltime scorer in pro football with 1,580 points, 422 fewer than George Blanda. "I do have little nagging injuries," says Stenerud. "This season I had to have a special brace made to stabilize my left ankle. I must have planted that foot 20,000 times in my career. I run every day after practice, and I lift weights three times a week. I never enjoy myself during the season; I'm always worrying about something. But that's why I've lasted so long.

"I love this game. If my mind doesn't go, I just might kick till I die."

You might not remember the legend of J√∏rgie J√∏rgensen (as Stenerud was nicknamed by his old Kansas City Chief cronies): In 1962, Stenerud, a junior soccer star from Fetsund, Norway, goes to Montana State on a skiing scholarship. Three years later, he happens upon a couple of Bobcat football players kicking field goals straight on, tries one soccer-style and boots a 50-yarder—wearing tennis shoes. The rest is history.

"Kansas City is my home," he says. "And Green Bay was football mania at its best. But now, I can't picture myself with any other team. Minnesota is like the place I grew up—the climate, the surroundings, the people. It's as if I was meant to play here."

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

OFFENSE: Bear running back Walter Payton gained 154 yards and scored one touchdown in Chicago's 20-7 win over New Orleans to become the NFL's all-time leading rusher, with 12,400 yards.

DEFENSE: Raider outside linebacker Rod Martin had 10 tackles, including one sack (for a loss of 17 yards) and returned an intercepted Dave Krieg pass 14 yards for a TD as Los Angeles defeated Seattle 28-14.

"Gosh, I never thought about that," said Ram quarterback Jeff Kemp when told he'd require protection from Secret Service agents if his father. Jack, the New York congressman and ex-pro QB, is a presidential candidate in 1988. "In that case, I'd have to get one in the left side of the offensive line."

QUICK COUNT
Just because Walter Payton has rushed for 775 yards through six games this season, don't conclude that there's a trend toward grinding it out on the ground in '84. So far, NFL teams have gone to the air for more yardage than ever before.

Avg. net yds. passing per game

Avg. net yds. rushing per game

Differential

1974

307

267

40

1975

326

291

35

1976

304

301

3

1977

284

288

-4

*1978

318

284

34

1979

360

271

89

1980

392

255

137

1981

409

260

149

1982

399

236

163

1983

409

260

149

1984

415

243

172

*The first season of the five-yard bump

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)