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INSIDE THE NFL
The 78th NFL season got its identity on Nov. 16, in a domed
stadium in the middle of Indiana, where the 0-10 Colts met the
Super Bowl champion Packers, who had won five straight games.
The final score: Indianapolis 41, Green Bay 38.
The Oilers were making a run for the playoffs when they traveled to Cincinnati to meet the going-nowhere Bengals on Dec. 4. Midway through the second quarter the Bengals led 28-0 en route to a 41-14 win. The Dolphins could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory at Indianapolis on Dec. 14. They lost 41-0. The Saints won six games, the Falcons seven, the Jets nine, the Bucs 10. Is the earth still on its axis?
"No longer will San Francisco's third string be better than most teams' first unit," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said in early December. "It's impossible. The [salary] cap has caught up to everybody." Shanahan said this just before his team went from dominant to defenseless, surrendering 69 points in consecutive losses at Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
Now we hear that owners have begun discussions on a bylaw that would create even greater parity by keeping teams from circumventing the cap. The proposal would limit the total a team could commit in salaries and signing bonuses in any one year to 115% of the cap. For cap purposes, the plan would allow for the continued spreading of a signing bonus over the life of a player's contract, but it would prevent an owner from doing what the Cowboys' Jerry Jones did in 1995, when, with a $37 million cap, he paid out $80 million in salaries and signing bonuses. If the '98 salary cap is, say, $47 million, an owner wouldn't be able to spend more than $54 million. The Cowboys and other free-wheeling clubs would have to be more judicious with their spending.
Which leads us back to the Packers-Colts game. Green Bay defensive end Reggie White missed some of the game and defensive tackle Gilbert Brown missed most of it with injuries. They were replaced by Darius Holland and Bob Kuberski, respectively. "No matter what you say about your backups, it isn't the same," Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre says. "The quality of player drops off when you lose a Reggie or a Gilbert. [That's what the cap is doing] to all of us."
Issue date: December 29, 1997
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