The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 13, 1999 · Page 96
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September 13, 1999

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 96

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Monday, September 13, 1999
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4CC THE PALM BEACH POST MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 1999 Football We loved them, they loved Dolphins Is ( ' DOLPHINS vs. BRONCOS WHEN: 9 tonight. WHERE: Mile High Stadium, Denver. TV: WPLG-10, WPBF-25. RADIO: WQAM-560AM, WQBA-1140AM, WJNO-1040AM, WJNX-1330AM, WPSL-1590AM. INJURIES: Dolphins - Out: LB Anthony Harris (groin); WR Lamar Thomas (shoulder-injured reserve); DE Dimitrius Underwood (shoulder), RB Cecil Collins (ankle). Questionable: RB Stanley Pritchett (knee). Broncos - None worse than probable. Mark Woods Dolphins PROJECTED LINEUPS Denver Broncos Offense Miami Dolphins Offense Margaret Abel knows it won't be easy. She knows that by turning on the TV tonight and seeing the Miami Dolphins beginning their 34th season, she is only asking to have the memories come pouring back. When ABC zooms in on a quarterback wearing a No. 13 jersey, she won't see just Dan Marino. She will see her only son, Billy. She will see him in that No. 13 sweatshirt. The one she gave him last Christmas. The one he wore when he visited a sister who lives in Buffalo Bills country. The one they buried him in. Billy Abel died Feb. 22. He was 35. When family members attempted one of the toughest writing tasks known to man sum up a loved one's life in a few hundred words they made a point to have the newspaper obituary include the unusual reason for why he ended up living in West Palm Beach for the final six years of his life. . . . Bill graduated from The Christian Academy of Media, PA in 1982. An extremely hardworking man, Bill worked for both Schmidt Bakery of Piiiladelphia, PA and Holsum Bakery of West Palm Beach. A devoted Miami Dolphin fan since childhood, Bill moved to Florida from Pennsylvania in 1993 in order to be closer to the team he loved. Even more than the Dolphins, Bill loved God and was a faithful member of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church "He was doing pretty good," his mother said last week. "I thought he was going to make it But we knew that any kind of virus would do him in." Billy had AIDS. Before moving to Florida, he had contracted the disease from a former girlfriend. He didn't know it at the time. He didn't even know it when she died in the Dolphins. And although, as the obituary said, he loved God more than the football team, on Sundays during the NFL season, he often made a point to wear his dress Dolphins shirt to church. When he was too weak to work at the bakery, he took a job with the turnpike, collecting tolls. He liked that. He would wear one of his Dolphins hats and when the cars came through on the way to the game, he'd cheer them on. Even when he was at his lowest physical and mental state "In early 1998, he was on the wrong kind of medication and it made him like a 2-year-old," his mother says there was something about the Dolphins that could get through to him. He would see a picture in his room, and his face would light up. "Dan Marino," he'd say. "Dan Marino." So when he died, his mother knew what to dress him in. The Marino sweatshirt A Dolphins hat. And today, his tombstone in Media, Pa. the one with a couple of Dolphins insignias on it has a Dolphins pennant flapping in the breeze. "The day we had the service, we were all joking that Dan Marino will have extra help this year because Billy will be up there saying, 'Come on, Lord, help him out,' " Margaret Abel said. This is what Margaret Abel will think of tonight For her and, for that matter, for anyone who since last season has lost a loved one who loved the Dolphins what will happen in Denver isn't just another season opener. And not because it's against the two-time defending champions. "Will I watch? Certainly," she said. "Will I cry a little? Probably." February 1994. It wasn't until Billy returned north in September 1994, visited the woman's family and one of her relatives told him: "Billy, you better get checked." He got checked. He got the bad news. Then kept it to himself. "He didn't tell us because my daughter was expecting her first baby," his mother said. "None of us found out until April of '95 It was just a little too late." Margaret Abel, who already was dealing with the end of a 30-year marriage, began preparing to lose another one of her four children. Thirty-seven years earlier, her 3-year-old daughter had died in a swimming accident an incident that prompted her to become a life-saving and swimming instructor. "I've probably taught thousands of kids how to swim," she said. "I'm still doing it. I'm teaching my grandchildren." She had taught Billy had to swim. Still, it was the water that got him. When he got a bite on his head while in the water this winter, he did the natural thing. He scratched it On Feb. 1, doctors discovered a bacterial infection. Twenty-one days later, at 4:30 a.m. on a Monday, he was gone. "He died right here in my arms," Margaret Abel said. "I combed his hair, put on one of his hats and got him ready." When you lose a loved one, it is Pot. No. Player Ht. Wt. Pot. No. Player HI. Wt. b"B 13 Dan Marino 6-4 228 OB 14 Brian Griese 6-3 215 ,RB 33 K. Abdul-Jabbar 5-11 205 TB 30 Terrell Davis 5-11 210 FB 44 RobKonrad 6-3 255 FB 29 Howard Griffith 6-0 230 WR 80 Tony Martin 6-1 175 WR 80 Rod Smith 6-0 200 WR 81 O.J . McDuffie 5-10 194 WR 87 Ed McCaffrey 6-5 215 TE 84 Troy Drayton 6-3 265 TE 84 Shannon Sharps 6-2 230 IT 78 Richmond Webb 6-6 315 LT 77 Tony Jones 6-5 291 LG 63 Mark Dixon 6-4 300 LG 69 Mar Schlereth 6-2 287 .. C 61 Tim Ruddy 6-3 300 C 66 Tom Nalen 6-2 286 RG 66 Kevin Gogan 6-7 325 RG 62 Dan Neil 6-2 281 RT 76 James Brown 6-6 325 RT 78 Matt Lepsis 6-4 290 K 10 OlindoMare 5-10 190 K 1 Jason Elam 5-11 200 Defense Defense Po. No. Player Ht. Wt. Pot. No. Player Ht. Wt. LE 79 Kenny Mixon 6-4 282 LE 98 MaaTanuvasa 6-2 270 'LT 95 TimBowens 6-4 315 LT 94 Keith Traylor 6-2 304 RT 92 Daryl Gardener 6-6 315 RT 93 Trevor Pryce 6-5 295 RE 99 Jason Taylor 6-6 260 RE 91 Alfred Williams 6-6 265 $LB 52 Robert Jones 6-3 245 SLB 53 Bill Romanowski 6-4 245 ILB 54 Zach Thomas 5-11 235 MLB 59 Glenn Cadrez 6-3 240 WLB 59 Derrick Rodgers 6-1 230 WLB 51 John Mobley 6-1 236 LCB 27 Terrell Buckley 5-10 180 LCB 39 Ray Crockett 5-10 184 RCB 29 Sam Madison 5-11 185 RCB 40 Dale Carter 6-1 188 FS 31 Brock Marion 5-11 205 FS 26 Eric Brown 6-0 210 SS 38 Calvin Jackson 5-9 195 SS 34 Tyrone Braxton 5-1 190 ' P 6 Brent Bartholomew 6-2 220 P 16 Tom Rouen 6-3 225 Courtesy photo This Dan Marino sweatshirt always was a treasured item in Billy Abel's collection of Dolphins gear. funny what will jump out of everyday life and remind you of them. It can be a perfume they wore. A song they listened to. A food they ate ... a football team they loved. The room where Margaret Abel's son lived the past couple of years, the room where he died, remains filled with Dolphins memorabilia. A framed commemorative photo of the 1972 team. A limited edition painting. A Dolphins rug. A Dolphins nightlight A Dolphins bank. Photos of No. 13 throwing a football. "I haven't been able to change the room yet," she said. "It's just one of those things." So much of Billy's life included Non-starters QUARTERBACKS Non-starters QUARTERBACKS 11 Damon Huard 6-3 215 16 Jim Druckenmiller 6-5 234 RUNNING BACKS 'RB 20 John Avery 5-9 190 RB 32 J.J.Johnson 6-1 230 RB 34 Cecil Collins' 5-10 207 FB 36 Stanley Pritchett 6-1 240 RECEIVERS 6-4 215 6-5 270 6-2 215 6-2 205 6-4 265 , WR 82 Larry Shannon , TE 83 Hunter Goodwin WR 86 Oronde Gadsden WR 87 Yatil Green TE 89 Ed Perry OFFENSIVE LINEMEN ' G 60 John Bock C 62 Grey Ruegamer , G 65 Kevin Donnalley - G 74 Brent Smith DEFENSIVE LINEMEN Marino didn't really twist Johnson's arm 6-3 295 6-5 310 6-5 310 6-5 315 6 Bubby Blister 6-3 205 12 Chris Miller 6-2 212 RUNNING BACKS " RB 22 Olandis Gary 5-11 218 RB 31 Derek Loville 5-10 210 RB 37 Anthony Lynn 6-3 230 RB 42 Detron Smith 5-9 230 RECEIVERS WR 81 Andre Cooper 6-2 210 WR 82 Marcus Nash 6-3 195 WR 83 Travis McGritf 5-8 185 WR 85 Chris Doering 6-4 195 TE 86 Byron Chamberlain 6-1 242 TE 88 Desmond Clark 6-3 255 TE 89 Dwayne Carswell 6-3 260 OFFENSIVE LINEMEN C 60 K.C.Jones 6-1 275 C 64 Lonnie Friedman 6-3 298 T 70 TreyTeague 6-5 285 G 79 Chris Banks 6-1 300 G - Dan Finn 6-3 316 DEFENSIVE LINEMEN DE 73 Cyron Brown 6-5 275 DE 90 Neil Smith 6-4 270 DE 96 Harald Hasselbach 6-6 285 NT 97 MikeLodish 6-3 270 DT 98 MaaTanuvasa 6-2 270 DE 99 Montae Reagor 6-2 256 LINEBACKERS 50 Artie Ulmer 6-2 247 52 David Bowens 6-2 255 54 Nate Wayne 6-0 230 56 Al Wilson 5-11 239 DEFENSIVE BACKS CB 20 Tory James 6-1 195 CB 21 Chris Watson 6-0 191 S 24 Darrius Johnson 5-9 185 DB 38 Tori Noel 6-0 200 S 48 George Coghill 6-0 210 DE 90 D. Underwood 6-6 276 DE 91 Lorenzo Bromell 6-6 270 DE 93 Trace Armstrong 6-4 270 DE 96 Rich Owens 6-6 275 DT 98 Antoine Simpson 6-2 310 LINEBACKERS 50 Dwight Hollier 6-2 242 51 Anthony Harris' 6-1 240 55 Larry Izzo 5-10 228 57 O.J. Brigance 6-0 236 DEFENSIVE BACKS : S 21 Rayna Stewart 5-10 200 , ..SS 22 Shawn Wooden 5-11 205 CB 23 Patrick Surtain 5-11 190 . CB 24 Jerry Wilson 5-10 187 CB 25 Greg Jeffries 5-9 195 ' CB 28 Ray Hill 6-0 195 Inactive for tonight's game. His take on this debate is that Marino can throw deep but he just hasn't been doing it much the past few years. "People think once you're great at something, it's like riding a bicycle. It's not," he said, adding he believes once Marino gets used to his receivers he will be seen going deep again. "I anticipate Danny being as good if not better this year than he's been in the past four or five years, just because he has deep weapons to go along with the possession receivers." The main deep weapon, Martin, also has a bit of perspective in the Great Marino Arm debate. He began his pro career catching passes from a 27-year-old Marino. "He can't throw it like when he first got in the league, but he's not far off," he said. "He can still get it there, and if you don't get your head around, he'll pop you in the back of the head." way's rooting for Marino This much is certain: Now that every other member of the Quarterback Class of '83 has retired, now that Elway has a couple of rings, the Dolphins will be a sentimental favorite around the country. Even the guy who will have his number added to the Broncos' Ring of Honor at halftime tonight readily admits that if his former team can't three-peat, he wants the Dolphins to win. "It would be great to see Danny get a Super Bowl win and get the recognition that he really does deserve because they always give you that black mark if you haven't won," Elway said during an appearance on Fox Sports Net. For fans across the country, it will seem strange to see the Broncos tonight and not see Elway. But for Elway, the transition to former player already has been made. "I watched that first (exhibition) game and didn't like that feeling," he said. "Not that I missed playing. I just missed being a part of it When you're a part of an organization for 16 years, all of a sudden not being a part of it wasn't a good feeling. I watched pre-season games since then and it's a lot easier. I'm a fan." Marino has heard tales like this from all of his peers who have retired. They tell him it's not a bad life, that they don't miss it as much as they thought they might Marino will wait and see after season There has been speculation that such talk has made Marino ponder making this his last year. So is it? It would be nice to give you an answer today. The problem, though, is that Marino doesn't know the answer today. "For me, it's a year-to-year thing," he said. "It's what the team is like, how I'm feeling. Do we have a chance to win? Do I still enjoy playing? ... I might play for three more years. Or I might not." It, of course, also might be the last year for Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson. He was ready to retire last January, following the loss at Denver, then changed his mind. Ever since that day, there has been this perception that Marino got in his car and drove from his house in Weston to Davie so he could try to convince Johnson not to leave. That is only partly true. Yes, Marino was waiting for Johnson. His intent, however, was not to persuade the coach to stay. "I came in to tell him I enjoyed working with him, and seeing who he was thinking about hav-. ing replace him," Marino said last week. "I didn't specifically come over here to say, 'Hey, please stay.' But once I got here and we got talking about it then it comes across that way. I wanted him to stay, because I think we have a chance. And if he would have left, it changes things a lot" What happens if they do win it all? What if this is the episode where Marino actually gets off the island? Marino was asked that during the annual Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Kickoff Luncheon. Before he could answer, Johnson interrupted. "Dan, IH answer that question," he said. "If and when we win the Super Bowl this year, Dan will not retire. It's like when you've had a fantastic piece of steak. Do you stop eating the steak? No, you want more. I know about that And that's the way it will be with Dan." MARINO From ICC another tease. The injuries came. The defense sprang a leak. The 16th season of Marino's career ended with the Dolphins losing 38-3 in the second round of the playoffs. The 17th act opens with the same backdrop: a rickety, old stadium that has been known to shake when the patrons start stomping their feet. But if you open your playbill, you will notice there are dramatic changes in the cast. The role of Broncos quarterback John Elway now is being played by a second-year understudy, Brian Griese. And the role of Dolphins' deep threat a position that some might argue hasn't been filled for a while will be played by Tony Martin. Oh, and there is a new villain. That would be Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who when asked about the cast changes last week took some shots at Marino, saying the quarterback is on his last legs. When Marino was asked about the changes, he said: "I think we have more playmakers than we've had in the last couple years We're going to be a pretty good football team. I believe that." Marino will turn 38 next Wednesday. His knees will turn about 88. His arm . . . well, that is up for debate. Turn on the radio and you will hear some disgruntled fans saying the reason the Dolphins haven't had a deep threat isn't necessarily because of the lack of a receiver who can outrun cornerbacks. They point to a future Hall of Fame quarterback and say he can't throw it over cornerbacks like he once did. Marino agrees with that last assessment. Sort of. "I'll be honest with you; I can't throw as far as I did when I was 21," he said, adding with a smile and a wink. "But . . . pretty damn close." Nat Moore: Now he has deep weapons Former Dolphins receiver Nat Moore, who caught passes from a young Marino, spent this pre-season working as an analyst on Dolphins broadcasts. : SCHEDULES ) Dolphins 0-0 Broncos 0-0 TODAY at Denver 9 p.m. TODAY MIAMI 9 p.m. I S. 19 ARIZONA 1p.m. S. 19 at Kansas City 4:15 p.m. ' S.26 BYE WEEK S. 26 at Tampa Bay 1p.m. 0.4 BUFFALO 9 p.m. 0.3 NY. JETS 4:15 p.m. ' 0. 10 at Indianapolis 4:15 p.m. 0. 10 at Oakland 4:15 p.m. J 0.17 at New England 1p.m. 0.17 GREEN BAY 4:15 p.m. ' 0. 24 PHILADELPHIA 1 p.m. 0. 24 at New England 1 p.m. 0.31 at Oakland 1:05p.m. 0.31 MINNESOTA 4:15 p.m. ' N.7 TENNESSEE 8:20 p.m. N.7 at San Diego 4:15 p.m. ' N. 14 at Buffalo 1p.m. N. 14 at Seattle 8:20 p.m. V N. 21 NEW ENGLAND 1 p.m. N. 22 OAKLAND 9 p.m. I N.25 at Dallas 4:15 p.m. N.28 BYE WEEK , D. 5 INDIANAPOLIS 1p.m. D. 5 KANSAS CITY 4:15 p.m. 0.12 at New York Jets 4:05 p.m. D. 13 at Jacksonville 9 p.m. D. 19 SAN DIEGO 1p.m. D. 19 SEATTLE 4:15 p.m. (. D. 27 NEW YORK JETS 9 p.m. D.25 at Detroit 4:15 p.m. J. 2 at Washington 4:15 p.m. J. 2 SAN DIEGO 4:15 p.m. THE MATCHUPS HrV 7. fir .. ,T',,X L y Dale Carter BRONCOS CB Tony Martin DOLPHINS WR VS. Slow Davis, and Dolphins will have a chance Is your new guy better than our new guy? This is the first test of the off-season additions. Martin, signed after he was released by Atlanta, had a decent pre-season, especially considering he spent much of it in a courtroom. He will begin this season against team that ended his 1998 season with a Super Bowl loss. But he will be looking at a new face. I The Broncos hope Carter, signed as a free agent after seven seasons in Kansas City, will combine with Ray Crockett to give them the best cornerback play in the league. I "He's a physical corner, a tall corner," Martin said. "He's one of the best cornerbacks in the league." Tale of the tape Dolphins' 1998 averages, NFL rankings: OFFENSE DEFENSE TOT. RUN PASS TOT. RUN PASS 16 24 10 3 6 6 308.1 95.9 212.2 277.2 94.4 182.8 Broncos' 1998 averages and NFL rankings: OFFENSE DEFENSE TOT. RUN PASS TOT. RUN PASS 3 2 7 11 3 26 380.8 154.3 226.5 308.4 80.4 228.0 Tony Jones BRONCOS LT VS. Jason Taylor DOLPHINS DE ' In the rematch just weeks later in Denver, however, the Broncos smashed Miami out of the post-season and did so, in significant measure, behind Davis' 21 carries for 199 yards. Miami hopes Griese is forced into a big role, because it would mean Davis isn't playing one. "If any one individual player was targeted," Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson said, "it would have to be Terrell Davis. If Terrell Davis is having the success he had in the playoff game, then, really, Brian Griese isn't going to be a factor." Get the picture? The Broncos beat the Dolphins last season when Davis gained 9.5 yards per carry; the Dolphins beat the Broncos last season when Davis gained 1.8 yards per carry. If s unlikely Davis will average anything resembling either figure tonight, but there is a formula worth tracking as it regards him and Denver's quarterbacks. In all but one game last season, Davis had at least as many rushing attempts as the Broncos quarterbacks had completions . . . and that was with Elway around most of the time. Davis had more attempts (470) than Denver had completions (335) for the season, including playoffs. By comparison, Miami's lead running back had at least as many attempts as Dolphins quarterbacks had completions only eight times in 18 games last year. You want a Guiding Light for tonight's game? His name is Davis. And he's not a quarterback. STODA From ICC second NFL season, will make his first career start as a pro tonight against who else? Dad's old Dolphins, has all sent most of Denver into apoplectic spasms of worry. It's almost as though Bronco Billys and Bettys everywhere would feel better with Griese the Elder in charge . . . and never mind that he retired a couple decades back. Let's also not forget about Walter Andrew Blister III, who is the Denver quarterback Bronco Billys and Bettys everywhere assumed would succeed Elway at the position until coach Mike Shanahan recently decided otherwise. Blister, best known as Bubby, didn't take the news at all well and there remain concerns as to just how unified the two-time defending Super Bowl champions really are behind the closed doors of their locker room. Throw in the Dolphins' own mix of constant speculation about Dan Marino's playing future and some nasty quotes from Denver owner Pat Bowlen about Marino's diminishing abilities, and, well, the quarterback pot is overflowing. The odd thing, though, is that all the attention paid to the aforementioned subject very much misses the point in examination of the most important aspect Miami vs. Denver in the 1999 season-opening contest for both teams. The quarterback issues? Soap opera. Style, not substance. The substance is Denver running back Terrell Davis and how effectively or ineffectively the Dolphins deal with him. Miami and Denver played each other twice last season, and split those games. In the first one, though it is worth noting the Broncos had nothing at stake and used a scaled-down offensive scheme while losing on the road, Davis gained only 29 yards on 16 carries. It was, by far, his worst performance of a season in which through the playoffs Davis rushed for 2,476 yards. The Dolphins, chasing a favorable playoff rung, won that game. Taylor hopes to take them to the cleaners ' It's the battle of the small-school players turned NFL stars. Jones, an 11-year veteran out of Western Carolina, has earned a reputation as one of the best pass blockers and one of the sharpest dressers. He owns more than 100 suits and plans to open a clothing store after his career is over. Taylor, who has done modeling, said he won't try to compete with Jones in the wardrobe department. , "He's got a lot more money," Taylor said. "The important thing is that when we work we wear the same clothes shoulder pads and helmets." - Mark Woods

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