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Lucky losers

Coaches get trip to Hawaii for losing title game

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Posted: Saturday February 05, 2000 10:19 PM

  Tony Dungy Tony Dungy's Bucs nearly beat St. Louis in the NFC title game by holding the NFL's best offense to just 11 points. AP

HONOLULU (AP) -- Tom Coughlin has more on his mind than the AFC team he's coaching in Sunday's Pro Bowl.

The Jacksonville Jaguars coach said it's been difficult to prepare for the Pro Bowl with his AFC championship loss to Tennessee still fresh in his mind.

The Pro Bowl "is not the first thing on your mind when you get beat," Coughlin said. "It's always what can we do to win and, with free agency right there upon us, there's an awful lot of decisions that have to be made. There are other things which jump into your mind prior to coming here to play this game."

Coaches of the losing teams in the league title games coach the Pro Bowl squads since their staffs still are intact and in working mode.

NFC coach Tony Dungy is taking a positive approach to the situation.

"You think about it every now and then," the Tampa Bay coach said of his team's loss to St. Louis in the NFC title game. "But it's really a nice reward for your staff and for your coaches and that's the way we're kind of looking at it."

On Thursday, Bucs ownership fired offensive coordinator Mike Shula over Dungy's objections.

Hurricane warning

Tampa Bay defensive stalwart Warren Sapp said he's unconcerned about double-murder charges being filed against boyhood friend and former Miami Hurricane teammate Ray Lewis. The Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker was arrested and charged Monday and removed from the AFC roster.

"I know Ray didn't do it. It's just a situation where you pay for being a recognizable face in a crowd when something goes down," Sapp said. "I think that's the situation we're at right now and when everything is said and done, Ray will be vindicated.

"I raised him. I know better. I'm not even worried about it."

Sapp was busy signing autographs when a reporter asked how much he enjoyed being mobbed by fans.

"I kind of enjoy it. Somebody once told me, one of the great players who played this game, 'You don't worry about it when they want your autograph, you worry about it when they don't,'" he said. "That means your time has passed you by."

What could've been

Carnell Lake was asked if he thinks about what could have been with the Pittsburgh Steelers if free agency and the Rooney family's tight wallets didn't break up a team that played in the 1996 Super Bowl.

Before the Jacksonville Jaguars safety could answer, Baltimore Ravens safety and former Steeler teammate Rod Woodson walked by and repeated "No!," his way of saying it hurts to think about it.

Following that Super Bowl appearance, the Steelers lost, among others, quarterback Neil O'Donnell, receiver Yancey Thigpen, Woodson, Lake, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown -- who is in the Pro Bowl with Seattle -- and Leon Searcy, now a Pro Bowl tackle for Jacksonville. Also in the Pro Bowl is Tampa Bay linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who played his first six seasons in Pittsburgh.

This year, no Steelers made the Pro Bowl.

"I just think about the 'What ifs?'" said Lake, who joined Jacksonville before the start of the 1999 season. "You had so many great players there at one time, coaches as well. I had 10 wonderful years there. For the most part I remember it with very fond memories, but I'm happy where I am right now."

Video game guinea pigs

New York Giants linebacker Jesse Armstead and Buccaneers running back Mike Alstott were busy playing video games after one NFC practice, but their fun had a purpose.

The two were being questioned by designers of the Sony PlayStation game NFL 2000, about how they react in certain situations and what kind of moves they would make on certain plays. Their answers will be incorporated into the 2001 version of the game.

Armstead said last year they asked for sound bites for the game, but this year they are getting more involved.

"They ask you, 'How you can tell when it's a run? How can you tell when a screen is developing?'" he said. "I just tell them how I look at it and what a linebacker is looking for. I'm just trying to take them into the eyes and body of us while we are out there on the field."

Asked how he liked the game, Armstead had high praise.

"You look at the graphics, you look at how the players think and how they play, that is the closest you can get to actually being out there on the field," he said.

Money from the players' involvement goes to an NFL Players Association fund that helps players after they retire.

Waiting for the stork

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue usually is host of the Pro Bowl week of festivities, but this year he's not in Hawaii.

Instead, the commissioner is back home, preparing for a new role -- grandfather.

Tagliabue's daughter is scheduled to give birth this week and the commissioner wants to be home with his family for the occasion, an NFL spokesman said.

The old men and the line

Minnesota Vikings guard Randall McDaniel will add to his record Sunday when he makes his 11th consecutive start for the NFC. Tennessee Titans guard Bruce Matthews also is playing in the 11th Pro Bowl of his 17-year career.

When asked how he and Matthews manage to play at such a high level, McDaniel said it was wrong to put him in the same league with Matthews.

"He's an old man, that's an old man there," McDaniel, a 12-year veteran, joked. "I just hope I'm still walking when I'm that age. For a lineman to come over that long, I got to talk to him and find out what his secret is. I got to find out what's he eating."

As for what really keeps McDaniel going, he said, "I love playing. I love to compete. I hate to lose. Even if we don't win the game, I hate to lose to the guy I'm playing against."

Just give me his damn coach!

New York Jets receiver Keyshawn Johnson has a theory about who will be the hot player at the Pro Bowl.

For a player to star he needs either his quarterback, his coach, or preferably both, to ensure success in the game.

With Vinny Testaverde on the team and the Jets coaching staff leading the AFC last year, Johnson was named a co-MVP. This year, he has three other Jets on the team, but none throwing the ball or calling the plays.

With Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin in charge of the AFC, and Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell on the team, Johnson expects Jacksonville receiver Jimmy Smith to have a big game.

"Last year Jimmy Smith didn't catch a pass because his quarterback wasn't here," Johnson said. "But he has his coach and his quarterback with him. I don't have no quarterback here, or no coach...so I'm the odd man out."


 
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