A BEAR MARKET FOR MIKE

When he came to the league three years ago, Mike McCaskey, Chicago Bears president and grandson of George Halas, was touted as a potential successor to commissioner Pete Rozelle. But since the USFL's $1.69 billion antitrust suit against the NFL, the McCaskey-for-com-missioner talk has been muted.

McCaskey helped commission the infamous Harvard Business School seminar that dealt with competitive strategy against the USFL. (McCaskey had been a professor at Harvard Biz before he took over the Bears.) The Harvard study wound up being a major part of the USFL's case against the NFL.

Said an NFL owner who asked to remain anonymous, "Inadvertently, Mike McCaskey caused a lot of problems for us. He was new at the game. There's not a chance he'll ever be commissioner."

Said another NFL owner, "To blame [Mike] totally for the Harvard seminar is wrong."

McCaskey, once open with the press, has been very quiet since the trial. But if he believes he was hurt politically by the trial, he won't admit it.

"If guilt by association means that I'll never be commissioner, fine," McCaskey says. "I want to be president of the Chicago Bears."

The trial may not do in McCaskey, but Jim McMahon might. In his recently released autobiography, McMahon!, the Bears' quarterback wrote: "When he [McCaskey] came on the field in the fourth quarter at the Super Bowl, smiling from ear to ear, I got the eerie feeling that he felt it was his team, his leadership that did it all. That's why I went out of my way to avoid him, and I wasn't alone. Walter Payton was right beside me, and he was just laughing at McCaskey. Most of us laugh to keep from strangling him."

ONCE A COACH, ALWAYS A COACH

Lou Saban's head coaching career has included jobs with the Buffalo Bills, Boston Patriots and Denver Broncos as well as Northwestern, Western Illinois, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Army and Central Florida. He was also president of the New York Yankees and, until recently, a Yankee scout based in North Carolina. A month ago—at age 64—Saban became the defensive coordinator at Martin County High in Stuart, Fla.

Bill Cubit, 32, the school's rookie head coach, was an assistant under Saban at Central Florida ('83-84). When Cubit's first choice for defensive coordinator opted for a college job, Cubit phoned Saban. "I knew how much he missed coaching," Cubit says.

Saban doesn't mind the new role. "As an assistant coach, I don't have to deal with administrative problems or parents," he says. "When the phone rings, I don't have to answer it. I am strictly coaching.

"Going back to high school has been enlightening. I had no idea how teenagers tackle today's problems. As for extracurricular activities, they are caught up in so many things. Football isn't everything. That's the way it should be at age 16. To me, that attitude is a breath of fresh air."

THE HEALING PROCESS

During the off-season, Ronnie Lott, 27, the 49ers' All-Pro defensive back, was faced with the most vexing question of his young life.

In a Dec. 22 game against Dallas, the tip of the little finger on Lott's left hand was severely lacerated and crushed when it got caught between his shoulder pads and the helmet of Cowboy running back Timmy Newsome. Three months later the finger hadn't healed. "There was a separation between the bone and the first joint," Lott says. "I could move the tip without moving the joint."

So the doctor gave Lott two options. The first was to have a bone graft done and a pin put in the finger; that procedure would take at least eight weeks to heal. "Even then, the doctor wasn't sure the graft would take," Lott says.

The second option was to amputate the finger at the bottom of the nail. "I swallowed hard and asked how long I'd be out," Lott says. The doctor replied it would take three weeks to heal. "I decided I'm going the shorter route, on the spot," Lott says.

Still, Lott sometimes wonders about the decision. "I couldn't look at my hand. I'm still self-conscious about it," he says. "I never thought I'd have to go through a psychological healing, too. I've had numerous injuries in my career. Everything was always fixed; everything always ended up looking brand new."

GEE, WILL PETE ROZELLE CATCH THE BOUQUET?
For two guys who could be involved in some bitter disputes at the collective-bargaining talks by February, Jack Donlan, the executive director of the NFL's Management Council, and Gene Upshaw, the head of the NFL Players Association, certainly seem to have a cozy relationship. Donlan has accepted an invitation to Upshaw's wedding to Terri Buich in Washington on Saturday.

PEP TALKS THAT LOMBARDI NEVER GAVE
A flight attendant had these words of motivation for the Houston Oilers when the team's Braniff charter landed in Dallas for an exhibition game: "Knock 'em naked and hide their clothes."

OPEN MOUTH, INSERT FOOT
Owner Art Modell was noticeably quiet last week when his Cleveland Browns cut inside linebacker Tom Cousineau. That was quite a contrast to the flashy press conference in April '82, when Modell not only boasted about signing Cousineau to a five-year, $3.5 million contract but added that if Cousineau wasn't a great player, he—Modell—didn't know anything about football.

FASTEST MOUTH IN PHILADELPHIA
Is there anyone Buddy Ryan hasn't ripped? On Ryan's radio call-in show last month, a fan told the Eagles coach that he disagreed with something Ryan had done in an exhibition game. Buddy's response: "It really worries me what you think." Though he claims he was joking, Ryan said this about Eagles president Harry Gamble last week: "I guess he's the illegitimate son of our owner [Norman] Braman."

I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND
After five holding penalties in an exhibition game against the Raiders, Cleveland's Rickey Bolden got a call. "My fiancèe said, 'You don't hold me that much in an evening,' " Bolden said.

EYES IN THE SKY DON'T LIE
Presenting SI's instant-replay watch. The season started with an oddity—no signal from the field officials on the third play of the Bears-Browns game when an errant snap eluded Chicago's Jim McMahon. Al Gross of Cleveland dived on the ball in the end zone. The officials consulted with Nick Skorich, the replay man, who ruled Gross had control of the ball and the Browns had a touchdown. In Sunday's games, no calls were overturned by press-box officials. In the 31 exhibition games using the eyes in the sky, only two calls were overturned.

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PHOTOMICHAEL O'BRYONIt's back-to-school time, too, for Saban (center), who returned to the basics at Martin County High. PHOTOFOCUS ON SPORTSLott lost the tip of his little finger last April.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

OFFENSE: Eric Dickerson rushed for 193 yards, carried a career-high 38 times and scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 16 yards as the Los Angeles Rams held on for a 16-10 victory over the Cardinals.

DEFENSE: Free safety Deron Cherry recovered a blocked punt for a TD, had four pass deflections and returned an intercepted pass 49 yards to preserve Kansas City's 24-14 win over Cincinnati.

QUICK COUNT

Was the USFL that bad? Consider this: Of the 107 players with USFL experience who appeared on opening-day NFL rosters, 42 joined the NFL after the NFL-USFL trial. Another 33 ex-USFLers were on injured reserve.

AMERICAN CONFERENCE

ACTIVE

STARTERS

'86

IR

BILLS

4

3

2

1

COLTS

4

0

0

1

DOLPHINS

1

0

0

1

PATRIOTS

2

1

0

1

JETS

3

0

1

0

BENGALS

4

2

2

0

BROWNS

8

4

2

3

OILERS

7

2

3

0

STEELERS

1

1

0

0

BRONCOS

1

0

0

0

CHIEFS

4

2

2

1

RAIDERS

1

0

1

0

CHARGERS

6

3

3

3

SEAHAWKS

3

1

3

1

NATIONAL CONFERENCE

COWBOYS

5

1

2

1

GIANTS

4

4

0

0

EAGLES

3

1

1

0

CARDS

3

1

1

0

REDSKINS

5

1

4

2

BEARS

3

1

1

0

LIONS

2

1

0

2

PACKERS

3

0

2

2

VIKINGS

5

3

1

1

BUCS

8

1

3

3

FALCONS

4

3

2

1

RAMS

1

0

0

2

SAINTS

10

3

5

4

49ERS

2

1

1

3

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)