THE FALL OF TEXAS
Think what you will of Texas E. Schramm and his arrogant flair, but he is the man who brought Pete Rozelle into the NFL and, as the Cowboys' president and general manager, was more responsible than anyone else for making Dallas one of the game's marquee franchises. Yet twice in the last 18 months, Schramm has been forced out of the sport that he helped to make so successful.
Schramm and the Cowboys parted company in April 1989, shortly after Jerry Jones bought the team, but Schramm took over the start-up of the World League of American Football, an NFL-backed satellite league with franchises in Europe and North America. Last week, the WLAF board of directors voted to fire Schramm as league president, replacing him with Viking general manager—and WLAF board member—Mike Lynn.
The basic difference between Schramm and the seven NFL owners who make up the WLAF board was this: Schramm wanted the WLAF to be the big leagues and the NFL wanted Double A ball. All the NFL wanted was a nice little spring football league, which would feed the parent league some players, make it some money and expand interest in the NFL throughout Europe—and maybe someday the rest of the world. Schramm wanted a very big league very fast that not only would make money for the NFL but also would stand apart from it.
Schramm, 70, took the inglorious end to his 40 years in pro football in typical chip-on-the-shoulder style. "I know this is corny," he says, "but if you dare to be great, dare to do something different and unique, it's possible that something like this can happen. It's stretching the point, I know, but this is like Ted Williams choosing to play the final day of the season when he knows he's got the .400 average. I wasn't going to sit by, knowing we've got a good league. It's not my nature. I wanted this league to be great."
According to a memo sent last week from the WLAF board to the 26 NFL owners who are shareholders in the new venture, the board wants to rein in the new league. "Despite the TV contracts [ABC and USA Network have signed on], charter sponsors and enthusiastic prospective franchisees, etc., we believe the league should temporarily be down-sized from the proposed 12 teams to 10 or eight teams, at least two of which will be based in Europe," the memo said. "Most importantly, a change at the top is necessary. The vision that we might all have initially agreed to and pursued has changed and so, therefore, has the need for a CEO of Tex Schramm's ability and style."
Now the leadership of the league falls to Lynn, who leaves Minnesota under a cloud. He was fighting what appeared to be a losing battle to gain majority ownership of the Vikings for a group he was heading, the team was staggering under a 1-4 start, and he was taking a lot of heat for having given up too much in trading for Herschel Walker a year ago. The WLAF is getting a more fiscally conservative manager than Schramm as well as one who is better at taking orders.
One of Lynn's first priorities will be to complete negotiations with prospective owners, some of whom are stunned by the WLAF board's huge asking price for a franchise: $11 million. With the anticipated start of the inaugural season only five months away, not one franchise owner has been announced. As for Schramm, he's ready to go to work on something else. "I enjoy being in the arena," he says. "I'm either going to get into another arena, or I'm going to build my own."
The Colts have just started to play well, and guess who comes to dinner? Eric Dickerson, whose six-week exile on the non-football injury list ended on Wednesday. He signed a four-year, $10 million contract extension last Saturday, but the money won't solve his difficulties with his teammates. Those weren't open arms waiting for him at the door of the locker room. Inside are the guys he ripped during his training camp holdout.
"He's definitely burned some bridges," says quarterback Jack Trudeau. "Time will be needed to repair them. I just hope we don't make wholesale changes to accommodate Eric. We've won because we've gone in some directions that don't necessarily include Eric. If the coaches put three tight ends in and run Eric right, Eric left, Eric up the middle, I think we'll be going in the wrong direction, and you might have some unhappy guys."
Dickerson will be available for Sunday's game against the Broncos at the Hoosier Dome. "Our offense will be designed around winning," says Colt general manager Jim Irsay, "not around Eric."
Dickerson's nonguaranteed contract is heavily weighted toward the final two years of the deal. He will make a total of $3.8 million for the 1991 and '92 seasons and $6.2 million all told for '93 and '94. If Dickerson behaves, Indianapolis plans to keep him for the life of the contract.
FORFEIT THE SEASON
When Patriots coach Rod Rust convened practice on Oct. 10, his five best offensive players were missing, and none had football-related excuses. Tackle Bruce Armstrong and running backs John Stephens and Robert Perryman were in nearby Cambridge, answering questions posed by Philip Heymann, the special counsel investigating the sexual harassment of Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson in the New England locker room last month. Wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes was in a Providence hospital after being beaten about the head and face in a brawl outside a nightclub early that morning. And the club's perennial bad boy, wide receiver Irving Fryar, had just been released from jail, after having been arrested in the same nightclub incident on a weapons possession charge.
Dykes and Fryar were leaving Club Shalimar in Providence at about 1:20 a.m. when Dykes got into a fracas with several club patrons and a bouncer from the club, William Earley, who allegedly struck Dykes in the eye with a crutch. Fryar, who was hit on the back of the head, went to his car and brought out a loaded gun, which, witnesses told police, he brandished at the crowd that had gathered outside the club. Earley was jailed on a felony assault charge. Fryar, who had a Massachusetts permit for the gun but not a Rhode Island license, was arraigned and will have a hearing in December on the weapons charge. "You have to wonder what the commitment is from these players," says New England general manager Pat Sullivan.
You have to wonder why the Patriots still have Fryar—he has been involved in numerous scrapes with the law during his seven-year career with New England—on their team. Then again, they wouldn't be the Patriots without him.
NO MORE HANDICAP
Former Cardinals quarterback Neil Lomax won't be eligible for the Senior PGA Tour until 2009, but he already has plans to play on it. "I'm serious," says the 31-year-old Lomax. "When I turn 50,1 want to give the tour a try." He'll do it with an artificial hip, implanted six months ago to replace an arthritic hip made worse by 359 career sacks. Already his handicap is down from a 10 to a six. "I can rotate my hips now, and I can walk 18 holes without carrying a bottle of aspirin," he says. "But the new hip hasn't cured my putting."
THE END ZONE
This one isn't for the faint of heart.
Browns guard Ted Banker is coming back from major reconstructive surgery on his left knee with the help of a dead person. Banker suffered one of the worst knee injuries imaginable when he was hit while trying to make a tackle after an interception in the AFC Championship Game last January. The anterior cruciate ligament was shredded, the medial collateral ligament was completely torn, the posterior cruciate ligament and the patellar tendon were partially torn, cartilage (lateral and medial meniscus) was torn, and the kneecap was severely dislocated.
"I could feel the whole middle of my knee tearing and the side of the knee rip," says Banker. In repairing the anterior cruciate ligament, the surgeon usually replaces the ligament with part of the patellar tendon. Because Banker's patellar tendon also was damaged, team physician Dr. John Bergfeld used the anterior cruciate ligament from a cadaver instead. "I don't know anybody else playing with replacement parts from another body," says Banker, 29, who is called RoboKnee by teammates. He also doesn't know anything about the donor. "Whoever it was, I hope he was fast."
THE WEEK THAT WAS
HIS NUMBERS TALK
As is customary when the Giants make their annual trip to RFK Stadium, Redskins fans showed up early to greet New York quarterback Phil Simms. "We're gonna break your legs, Simms" one guy yelled at him an hour before kickoff. "Gonna have to carry you out today, Simms" screamed another. Well, talk's cheap; performance counts.
On a day when the Redskins held Lawrence Taylor to no sacks and ran the ball down the Giants' throats and shut down New York's rushing game, the 34-year-old Simms came through for the Giants, who prevailed 24-20. He has now quarterbacked them to eight victories in their last nine nonstrike meetings with the Skins. Of course, also on Sunday, Joe Montana threw for six touchdowns against Atlanta and Warren Moon passed for five against Cincinnati, so the accounts of Simms's performance—13 completions in 22 attempts, 283 yards, two TDs, no interceptions—wound up on page 2.
"Pffffft," said Simms with a sour expression after the game. "Stats. Quarterback ratings. Who cares?" Well, O.K. But if anybody out there is keeping score, he is the NFL's top-ranked quarterback (109.3) after six weeks. Against Washington, Simms completed three passes that went for gains of 60 yards or more, the first time he's done that in his career.
Simms's 80-yard TD pass play to wideout Stephen Baker put New York ahead 7-3. A 61-yard completion to tight end Mark Bavaro set up the TD that made the score 14-6. A 63-yarder to fullback Maurice Carthon led to the TD that gave the Giants a 21-13 lead. "I look across the field and I keep seeing him—beating us," said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. "I hope somewhere along the line we can outlive him."
THIS REALLY HAPPENED
In the second quarter of the Chargers' 39-3 win over the Jets, San Diego quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver fumbled a snap from center. New York safety Erik McMillan recovered, and as he advanced the ball, Tolliver tackled him. McMillan fumbled, and Tolliver recovered. So, on one play, Tolliver fumbled, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Got it?
In the last five years, running back Barry Word has gone from ACC Player of the Year (1985), to the Saints' third-round draft choice (1986), to convicted cocaine distributor (1986), to bit player for New Orleans (1987), to long-distance phone company employee (1989), to famous Chiefs running back (1990)—for a day at least. Against the Lions, Word, who backs up Christian Okoye, gained 200 yards on 18 carries. "I've never dreamed of anything like this," said Word after Kansas City's 43-24 romp at Arrowhead Stadium.
Here's how illogical Word's performance was. After spending 4Vz months in a federal prison for the drug conviction, he saw virtually no action with the Saints for two years and was cut before the '89 season. But the Chiefs invited him to training camp, and he won the job as Okoye's backup. Word got hot on Sunday, and Kansas City stuck with him. In the fourth quarter, when Word picked up 127 of his yards, he had two runs—of 53 and 34 yards—that are longer than any rushes that Okoye, Barry Sanders or Herschel Walker has had this season. Here's how the sudden change in Word's pro football world looks statistically:
SCHIZOPHRENICS OF THE WEEK
After going 17 quarters without a touchdown this season, the Steeler offense has nine TDs in its last seven periods. Two weeks ago rookie Eric Green became the first Pittsburgh tight end in the 22-year Chuck Noll Era to catch two TD passes in a game. On Sunday, in a 34—17 victory over the Broncos, Green became the first tight end under Noll to grab three in a game.
STAT OF THE WEEK
The last time the Giants were 5-0, in 1941, they lost 16-13 to the Brooklyn Dodgers in Week 6. Bill Parcells was nine weeks old.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Steelers at 49ers. San Francisco went 18-1 in 1984, and its only defeat came on Pittsburgh's last visit to Candlestick Park. The game was decided when Joe Montana threw an interception to Steeler linebacker Bryan Hinkle, whose 43-yard return set up Gary Anderson's 21-yard field goal, which won the game 20-17. "One of these days, I'm going to be on a game show, and the million-dollar question is going to be, Who beat the 49ers for their only loss in 1984?" says Steeler cornerback Dwayne Woodruff. "I'm going to yell, 'Pittsburgh Steelers!' and I'm going to be a rich man."
Broncos at Colts. In July it appeared that a decent Indianapolis defense would keep the Colts in enough games to allow Eric Dickerson and heralded rookie quarterback Jeff George to lead them to eight or nine victories. But Dickerson was suspended for the first six weeks of the season, and George pulled an abdominal muscle in practice that forced him to the sideline in Week 3. Now with Jack Trudeau, who was the third-string signal caller when camp opened, and Dickerson's understudy, Albert Bentley (275 yards rushing, 258 yards receiving), leading the way, the 2-3 Colts have beaten Philadelphia and Kansas City in their two most recent games. George, who has been healthy for two weeks, remains on the bench, and Dickerson rejoins the team this week.
Cowboys at Bucs. Let's call this Florida West at Tampa Bay because Dallas has nine coaches and eight players on the active roster who were affiliated with universities in Florida. "It's like a home game away from home," says Cowboy guard Crawford Ker, a Florida alumnus. "I haven't played in Florida in six years." It's the first time Dallas has played in Tampa.
Career until Sunday