Where's the Beef?
How can you have any sympathy for Chris Doleman? The Falcon defensive end tried and failed to engineer his own departure from Atlanta last week at the trading deadline because he was disgusted with how he was being used. During the off-season, Doleman was traded to the Falcons for a No. 2 pick from the 1994 draft and a No. 1 from '95, and signed a contract that pays him $5.4 million over two years—a huge commitment for a pass rusher with a history of beefing over his pay. "I'm not interested in going to Pro Bowls or being All-Pro anymore," he told the Atlanta Constitution last month. "I want something that's bigger than that. I'd like to win a Super Bowl."
But, though the season was not yet half over, Doleman convinced the Falcons to let his agent, David Falk, try to find a deal for him. Doleman, it turns out, doesn't like defensive coordinator Jim Bates's scheme, which has defensive linemen tying up offensive linemen in order to free linebackers to do most of the pass-rushing. But Atlanta didn't get a nibble when Falk talked trade. "Doleman has to be kidding," said one general manager. "He was never happy in Minnesota, he talked his way out of Minnesota, he got an incredible deal with the Falcons, and now he wants to be traded? The guy's never going to be happy. We had no interest whatsoever."
Doleman deserves to be scolded for being a malcontent on a young, improving team. But the Falcons have to accept some blame for giving a pure pass rusher a $3 million signing bonus to be a run-pass player. Now Doleman comes in only on pass-rushing downs. "They brought me here and paid me a lot of money, and I'm very grateful for that," says Doleman. "But you have to put a guy in the right situation so he can work."
"The only thing that will help him is a three-sack game," says Viking defensive line coach John Teerlinck. "He needs to be allowed to rush the passer."
No. What Doleman needs is to be reminded of how the Falcons satisfied him six months ago when no one else would.
Eight days after his head collided with Bill linebacker Cornelius Bennett's knee, Bear running back Merril Hoge described how he felt: "I feel like I've got a bad flu and a head cold, and I've been living in a sauna for two days, and I've just gotten hit by a truck. My equilibrium is all screwed up. I'm completely exhausted, and I've done nothing. The other day, I started eating some scrambled eggs. But they were hot. I started blowing on them, blowing and blowing. The next thing I knew, I looked at my fork, and I'm blowing on a mandarin orange, and I had no idea how it got there or why I was blowing on it. I guess I thought it was still the egg."
Hoge was painting a vivid picture of a man suffering the lingering effects of a severe concussion. On Oct. 2, as Hoge lunged forward to clear a hole for running back Spencer Tillman, the front of his face mask collided with Bennett's knee. Five flattened bars on the face mask smashed into Hoge's face, one of them cutting his chin. He wobbled through one more play before leaving the field for the afternoon.
That night and into the next day, he didn't know he had a wife or a daughter. By last Friday, nearly two weeks after the injury, Hoge was still listless and nauseated, "I want to get my life back," he said after undergoing a neurological exam in Pittsburgh. On Monday, the 29-year-old Hoge announced his retirement.