The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 10, 1996 · Page 24
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 24

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Thursday, October 10, 1996
Page 24
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04 THURSDAY. OCTOBER 10, 1996 SPORTS THE SALINA JOURNAL V NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE Nick the kick After struggling to break into NFL, Lowery one field goal from record By The Associated Press HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Jan Stenerud was gone. In his place stood an untested Nick Lowery, who failed in trials with eight previous teams. It was 1980, and Lowery remembers it like yesterday. "My first field goal was a 50- yarder for the Chiefs against Seattle," Lowery said Wednesday. "I remember running out on the field and I was almost crying. I was saying to myself, 'This is it. This is the moment you've wanted to happen. This is what you've been waiting for.' "There were a lot of people who had a lot of affection for Jan, as I did. And now there was myself instead of Jan. "I just ran out there and said, 'Let it happen.' The wind was blowing right to left and I put it right through the uprights. When I came off the field, Mike Williams, a backup tight end, hugged me and lifted me right off the ground. "I made a 57-yarder later in the game." While Lowery isn't likely to make any more 57-yarders — at 40, his range might reach 50 yards on a good day — he is tied with Stenerud for the NFL record of 373 career field goals. On Sunday, as a New York Jet, Lowery might break the record of his idol in a game at Jacksonville. • It's a record 17 years in the making. "It's a blessing that I'm still playing," said Lowery, the most accurate kicker in league history, although he doesn't get many The Associated Press New York Jets kicker Nick Lowery Is tied with Jan Stenerud for the NFL record of 373 career field goals. Both kickers played with the Kansas City Chiefs. opportunities with the weak Jets. "There are a lot of great placekickers, guys like Matt Bahr and Kevin Butler and Eddie Murray who are not kicking now." Lowery seemed an unlikely candidate to set records when he came out of Dartmouth in 1978. He flopped in a tryout with the Jets in training camp, then was released by Tampa Bay and Baltimore. New England signed him and he appeared in two games, missing his only field goal try, making seven extra points. The next year, he was unemployed, failing to hook on with Cincinnati, Washington, New Orleans and San Diego, along with unsuccessful second tries with the Bucs and Colts. But in 1980, his strong leg earned him the job in Kansas City, ahead of Stenerud. "He was the man, the best kicker," Lowery recalled. "Jan was tall and lanky like I am. I was very fortunate just to get the chance to compete for the job. "When you are cut so many times, you realize it's a transient game. You have to always find ways to get better and never get complacent. You always feel you might be a few bad kicks from being out on the street." Lowery has not been out on the street since that big debut against the Seahawks. He's made 373 of 465 field goals (80 percent) and 542 of 547 extra points. He has made 11 game-winning kicks in the final two minutes. His consistency has been remarkable and, despite his age, Lowery has shown no signals of slippage. "I think he has always made it a 12-month job," Jets coach Rich Kotite said. "He has a tremendous work ethic and preparation. He is very tough mentally, very focused and able to keep his mind in the present tense. If he misses one, he comes back and makes one. "He is in tremendous condition. It is a commitment he has made. He had a rough going in the beginning, he stabilized and he will go into the Hall of Fame." The Associated Press Assistant trainer Greg McMlllen (left) helps Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly stretch out before practice. Kelly hopes to play Sunday after being sidelined with a hamstring Injury. Staying healthy tough for QBs Rams' reject Bettis refuses to look back Steelers running back has quieted criticisms with four consecutive 100-yard games By The Associated Press PITTSBURGH — As far away as his hometown of Detroit, Jerome Bettis heard the discouraging words supposedly being spread around the NFL last spring by St. Louis. Bad attitude. Poor influence. Too concerned with personal gains and personal wealth. Not a good fit. Most of all, he couldn't believe the St. Louis Rams were talking about... him? "I guess they (the Rams) were looking to get rid of me, so they just made stuff up," said Bettis, now the AFC's No. 2 rusher for the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I guess to make them look good, they had to make me look bad." Right now, the Rams couldn't look much worse after giving Bettis away on draft day, trading him to Pittsburgh for two draft picks. While the Rams subsequently have the NFL's lowest-rated offense, the Steelers — with Bettis doing his best Franco Harris imitation — are second in rushing and No. 6 overall. Best of all for the Steelers, Bettis has been everything he supposedly wasn't hi St. Louis: a friendly yet forceful influence in their locker room and a do-as-as-I-do leader on the field. The Steelers (4-1) have won four in a row as, not coincidentally, Bettis has four consecutive 100-yard games. The only longer Steelers' streak in the past 20 years was Barry Foster's nine-game run in 1992. Bad influence? The Steelers say the Bettis they know certainly must have gotten a bad rap. "When you look around at the type of people we have in our locker room, he was a natural fit," coach Bill Cowher said. "We approach the game with a no-nonsense attitude, and that's the way Jerome is. We have the type of people who recognize when it's time to work and when it's tune to play, and he fits in." How Bettis fell out of favor with the Rams so quickly remains a mystery. He challenged Barry Sanders for the NFL rushing title as a rookie in 1993, finishing with 1,429 yards, then ran for 1,025 yards in 1994 and again made the Pro Bowl. There, he watched some of the AFC's best rushers run wild irt the Steelers' offense. "You saw guys running all over the place and you think, 'Man, what could I do in that offense?' " Bettis said. Now he knows. With 524 yards in only five games, Bettis is'nearly halfway to 1,200 yards, the magic number that triggers a contract clause and makes him an unrestricted free agent. But, for now, he thinks not of the payday that might await, but rather making the Rams pay for their mistake. Don't think he hasn't noticed that the Steelers play St. Louis Nov. 3. "You always enjoy the chance to play against the old guys you played for," he said. Publicly, he says little negative about his former team. Privately, he remains angry that coach Rich Brooks and vice president of football operations Steve Ortmayer cast him adrift after only one poor season filled with injuries and miscommunication; running behind a mostly makeshift line, he had only 637 yards in 1995. Ten of this year's 15 changes at quarterback are because of injury By DAVE GOLDBERG The Associated Press Steve Young never had a pulled groin before. So it wasn't surprising that for the last two weeks, he had been cajoling George Seifert and the other San Francisco 49ers' coaches to play. Until last Saturday, when a former teammate warned him that it's one of those injuries that can recur if it's tested too soon. So on Sunday, after Elvis Grbac quarterbacked the 49ers to a 28-11 ho-hum win in St. Louis, Young changed his tune a bit. "I don't want to go out, play a half and reinjure it and miss three more games," he said. Translation: Grbac, who himself has a minute fracture of a vertebrae, is likely to start Monday night's showdown in Green Bay. Young, whose legs are more important to him than most quarterbacks, will continue to rest. He isn't the only one. For as the quarterbacks of the past decade age, they also get injured. Young has missed two games; Miami's Dan Marino is gone for another month with an ankle fractured as he set his feet to pass on the artificial turf of the RCA Dome, and Jim Kelly has missed Buffalo's last two games, plus a bye week, with a hamstring pulled in a routine practice session. Rodney Peete of the Philadelphia Eagles simply fell on the turf at Veterans Stadium and tore up his knee, again without contact. So by next Sunday, the seventh week of a 17-week season, half the 30 teams will have started at least two different quarterbacks this season. Last season, 21 teams changed starters during the season. Ten of this year's 15 changes are because of injury — the rest are for ineffectiveness, or in the case of Jeff George, for attitude. "We monitor these things weekly," says George Young, chairman of the NFL's rule-making competition, which for a decade has continued to change rules to make life safer for quarterbacks. "But I don't know how much more we can do. As guys age, they're more susceptible to things. Young, Marino, Kelly and Peete all got hurt without major contact." The rules already have been amended to the point where intentional grounding is legal — a quarterback has only to escape the Docket and throw the ball over the line of scrimmage to avoid a sack. Defensive linemen also can no longer take more than one step toward the quarterback after the ball is released. The injuries also are more telling because of the dearth of QBs. Kelly, Marino, Young arid John Elway, all of whom finished school in 1983, are 35 or older and Warren Moon is 40. The first-round quarterbacks of the '90s — Drew Bledsoe, Rick Mirer, Dave Brown, Trent Dilfer, Heath Shuler — have all been erratic or worse, and the only top prospect now in college is Tennessee's Peyton Manning. That's one reason why the Jets spent $25 million on Neil O'Donnell, an average quarterback who managed to take Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl last season. O'Donnell, who separated his shoulder last Sunday, is now 0-6, while Mike Tomczak is 4-0 since he took over. a 1 AUTO RACING Cooperation helps teammates in closely contested title chase Hendrick Motorsports' Gordon, Labonte are 1-2 in points standings By MIKE HARRIS The Associated Press CONCORD, N.C. — Cooperation is the name of the game for Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte. In fact, they've been so downright cooperative that the two members of the three-man team are going right down to the wire in the battle for the 1996 Winston Cup championship. Gordon, the defending series champion, leads the points standings, but Labonte has moved within one point with only three of 31 races remaining. Gordon has 10 wins and 19 top- five finishes, while Labonte, coming off a victory Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, has won just twice but has 17 top-fives, including seven second-place finishes. Close ties between the two crews have helped both drivers be consistently strong this season. Labonte's crew chief, Gary DeHart, and Gordon's crew chief, Ray Evernham, have a good working relationship. "We compete against each other, but we still get along well. Gary and Ray get along," Labonte said. "It's a deal where we want to win the championship for Hendrick Motorsports." The relationship is especially beneficial if one team is having problems. "Every time our car goes out and runs or Jeffs car goes out there and runs, we don't run over there and ask them what they "We compete against each other, but we still get along well It's a deal where we want to win the championship for Hendrick Motorsports." Terry Labonte Winston Cup title contender did," Labonte said. "We don't ask them what they have, and they don't ask us what we have. "But if we're struggling and we're in trouble or if they're struggling and they're in trouble, they come over and ask what we have. If we'll tell them exactly what it is. "There's some respect there between the two teams." Evernham said he'd rather lose a race to Labonte than to another team. "With the championship out there to win in the last three races, I don't think you're going to see either one of us fade away," he said. "And (Dale) Jarrett is still in it, too. But we can't do anything but be ready and run our own races and hope that the luck is with us the rest of the way." Team owner Rick Hendrick is caught in the middle, trying not to show any favoritism. "Sometimes, at the end of a race with 10 laps to go and they're lined up first and second on a restart, I get nervous," Hendrick said. "But I'd like to think that, as a unit, we believe that what's working is what got us into this posi- , 2. Terry Labonte ft^iYatSff^fiJtiffi^tfffi!!! 4. Dale Earnhardt tion. It's up to us to maintain it and not tear ourselves apart. Hendrick feels fortunate to be in such a position. "I've had drivers and crew chiefs, when we weren't running 12 in the points, who got into fights," he said. "But not one time during this battle have I had to go to them and say, 'Hey, let's talk.' They've handled it on their own." Sponsored locally by the Sallna Jaycees - For Boys & Girls between 8 & 15 - Sunday, October 13,1996, Sacred Heart Practice Football Field (230 E. Cloud, Salina) - Registration 12:30-1:15 pm, competition starts at 1:30 PM - Entry Forms available at: Sears, Green Lantern & Carroll's locations. - No Entry Fee. - Any Questions, call 823-5108,823-0842 k or 823-1614. TRACTOR SUPPLYC2 Wrangler RUGGED WEAK Hard Working Jean When you work bard, you need a jean that's up to the task. Made of heavyweight 14 3/4 ounce rigid denim, the new Rugged Wear WORK JEAN is a 5-pocket, relaxed-fit jean designed for comfort and durability. So, work hard and feel great in the long-lasting, great-fitting jean for any Job - the WORK JEAN. 12 99 Waistband Patch Convenient Locker Loop Comfortable U-Fit Crotch Extra Deep Front Pockets 5-Pocket Relaxed Fit with Fuller Seat & Thigh 100% Heavyweight 14 3/4 Ounce Rigid Denim SIZES 34-42 WAIST REG. 16,99 Prices Guaranteed Through October 26th Or While Supplies Last 1500 SOUTH 9TH STREET 827-3300 MON.-SAT. 8-6: SUN. 10-6

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