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Peyton says he likes Tuna but he acts otherwise

March 7, 1997

When Peyton Manning declared his intention to stay at Tennessee, he said one reason he was tempted to turn pro was the fact that Bill Parcells’ Jets have the first pick in the draft.

But if that’s the case, why didn’t he come out? Chances are that Parcells will improve the Jets enough that they won’t have the first pick again next year, meaning Manning will have to go to another downtrodden franchise that may be in total disarray.

There even is evidence that the prospect of playing for Parcells, who loves linebackers but is hard on quarterbacks, may have been a reason why Manning did NOT come out.

Among those with whom Manning discussed his options were Drew Bledsoe, Troy Aikman and Phil Simms.

Bledsoe is no fan of Parcells _ in effect, he said ``good riddance″ when the first rumors surfaced that Parcells would leave New England. Bledsoe’s agent, Leigh Steinberg, says: ``If Drew weren’t the son of a coach and used to a lot of tough love, Parcells might have crushed him.″

Simms and Parcells had a love-hate relationship when Simms quarterbacked Parcells’ Giants. They get along fine now _ Simms will host Parcells’ television show in New York next season.

But Parcells passed over Simms for Scott Brunner in his first season as the Giants’ head coach, 1983. And the two had a shouting match on the sideline during a Monday night game in Indianapolis in 1990.

``Bill and I like to talk from time to time,″ Simms said afterward

Aikman’s experience is playing against Parcells, not a fun thing for a quarterback. But he’s a Steinberg client and he knows Bledsoe, which means that he’s likely to have heard some negative tales.

Going to the Jets would have been a way for Peyton Manning to avoid his father’s dilemma. It’s unlikely that, with Parcells as coach, the Jets will remain as bad for as long as the Saints for which Archie Manning played.

Archie Manning has praised Parcells and Parcells reciprocated.

``Archie called me one time, but it never got to a situation where we got to discussing it,″ Parcells said. ``I’ve known Archie quite a while, it’s not like he’s some guy I just got to know a year ago or in the last two or three weeks.″

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ON TO ORLANDO Manning’s decision not to come out makes Orlando Pace, Ohio State’s 340-pound left tackle, the clear No. 1.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Jets will take him _ Parcells says he has faith in Jumbo Elliott, who played left tackle for him on the Giants.

That means the Jets could be open to trading down with someone who covets Pace _ and just about everybody does. This draft is deep in running backs and defensive backs, both of which the Jets could use.

Both New Orleans and Atlanta, which draft second and third, have good young left tackles _ William Roaf and Bob Whitfield. One team that needs one: Parcells’ old Giants, who pick seventh, but usually are loathe to make draft-day trades.

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DESMOND’S DECISION Desmond Howard’s decision to sign with the Raiders should have been no surprise. Al Davis loves speed and Howard is fast.

But Howard is unlikely to get the job as the Raiders’ third wide receiver because he’s failed at it before, in Washington, Jacksonville and Green Bay. He doesn’t go over the middle much and his hands have been inconsistent.

So even when the Packers were without Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman for a stretch this season, Howard was fourth in their receiving rotation behind Don Beebe, Terry Mickens and Anthony Morgan. When Freeman came back and Andre Rison was signed, he dropped to fifth behind Freeman, Rison, Beebe and Mickens; Morgan was cut to make room for Rison.

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BACK TO CLEVELAND There’s little question that when the NFL expands, one of the new franchises will go to Cleveland. The agreement that let Art Modell take his team to Baltimore specified that a team called the ``Cleveland Browns″ must be in place by the 1999 season.

But Los Angeles, which was at the top of the list after the Rams left, isn’t as sure a bet.

One reason the new Browns are likely to be an expansion team is the decision to build new stadiums in Tampa and Cincinnati, where the Bucs and Bengals were considering moves to Cleveland.

Another is Paul Allen’s apparent commitment to take over the Seahawks. Allen laid out $6 million of his own money as Chad Brown’s signing bonus, a sign that he appears ready to exercise his option on the team _ new stadium in Seattle or not.

But Los Angeles is another matter.

There is no stadium that the NFL considers suitable there right now _ the Rose Bowl, with its 100,000 seats, is too big and would almost ensure the new team’s home games would be blacked out.

``Yes, we’d like a team in Los Angeles. But no, it’s not imperative that it be next year,″ league spokesman Joe Browne said. ``They have to come up with a place to play.″

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BUSINESS ISSUES One thing likely to change at the league meetings next week is the long-standing policy prohibiting an NFL owner from owning a team in another sport.

The owners must rule before next July on Wayne Huizenga, who purchased the Dolphins nearly three years ago while owning the Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers. They waived the rule temporarily for him.

And now, the league wants the Seahawks in Seattle, and wants Paul Allen to exercise his option on the Seahawks. Allen is a part-owner of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and would need the same kind of exemption Huizenga has.

Many owners believe the 40-year-old single-ownership policy is outdated. There already are plenty of conflicts _ Bob Tisch, the Giants’ co-owner, owns Loew’s Hotels and is a major stockholder in CBS, both of whom do business (or want to) with the NFL.

Only about a quarter of the current owners list football as their major business, meaning the opportunity for conflict is everywhere.

End adv weekend editions March 8-9

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