Hundreds of thousands of fans will pay millions of dollars this weeke
Undated (AP) _ Hundreds of thousands of fans will pay millions of dollars this weekend to watch the final NFL exhibitions. They won’t exactly get what they pay for from coaches, whose main goal is the one articulated by New Orleans’ Jim Mora.
″I’d like to win it, but my main concern is that we come out of it with no injuries,″ Mora said as his Saints prepared to play the Detroit Lions Friday night.
This is the weekend before the NFL begins play in earnest.
And all coaches know that NEVER have all the teams gotten through the last game without at least one injury to a major player. They only hope the injuries happen to the other guy.
Last year’s the final-game victims included safety Steve Atwater of Denver and defensive tackle Tony Casillas of Dallas, who at least had the decency to get hurt early in camp this season. Casillas will be ready for the regular season this year.
This year’s victims?
The coaches hope no one. So most starters will play little more than a quarter and anyone with the slightest injury probably won’t play at all.
The weekend started Thursday night with Minnesota beating Pittsburgh 30-13 and the Steelers, already playing without starting quarterback Neil O’Donnell, saw backup Mike Tomczak leave in the third quarter with a bruised right thumb.
The majority of the games are Friday night, when Atlanta is at Buffalo, Kansas City at New England, Philadelphia at Cincinnati, Cleveland at Tampa Bay, Detroit at New Orleans, Indianapolis at Green Bay, the New York Jets at Washington, Dallas at Chicago, and Denver at Phoenix.
On Saturday, the New York Giants are at Miami, Seattle at Houston, San Diego at San Francisco, and the Los Angeles Raiders at the Rams.
But who will play?
Philadelphia coach Rich Kotite will play quarterback Randall Cunningham for just a quarter and veterans with minor injuries - center David Alexander, running backs Siran Stacy and James Joseph, linebackers Byron Evans, William Thomas and Scott Kowalkowski and defensive end Tim Harris - all will sit out.
Washington’s Richie Petitbon takes the middle ground.
″It’s not a time where you kill your veterans as far as getting a lot of playing time in,″ he says. ″But now that the roster is down considerably, it’s important to give everybody just a little work.″
Against rough-and-tumble Atlanta, Buffalo’s Marv Levy will play Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andr Reed, Bruce Smith and Cornelius Bennett for perhaps a quarter and go the rest of the way with guys who during the season will be on the special teams, the practice squad and the waiver wire.
″Somebody might be in a program where they’ve lost so much they feel it’s important that they win games just to get the enthusiasm that’s necessary,″ says Levy, whose team is 1-3 in its first four games. ″Everybody has their own agenda.″
One ″program″ Levy might be talking about is Cincinnati - perhaps because its regulars are so new to each other that they simply need the work. The Bengals lost 30-7 to Detroit last week and coach Dave Shula acknowledged he would have to regroup.
So quarterback David Klingler, in just his second year, will play into the third quarter and the starters will be used in various combinations that Shula hopes to use during the season.
″We’re going to evaluate some people in the ballgame, but we’re going to play the starters a lot of the time,″ Shula said Wednesday.
″We basically know what we’re going to do in the season opener. Now we’re just looking to give the units enough time to mesh. That’s our biggest concern, as young as we are, just to get guys playing together, to know each other.″