Gray sharpens his focus by juggling—tennis balls, baseballs, apples, even rolls of tape in the training room. "I've learned to see the ball in slow motion, which makes it easier to catch," Gray says. "On returns, it's so easy to be distracted. That's why a lot of returners can't do it consistently. When I focus on the ball, I don't realize what's going on around me. That's the key to my success."
Despite Bear coach Dave Wannstedt's best efforts, he can't seem to avoid a quarterback controversy.
Erik Kramer, the $8.1 million free agent whom Wannstedt hand-picked, now has a 1-3 record as a starter after Sunday's loss to the Lions. His backup, Steve Walsh, has a 3-0 record. And still Wannstedt insists that Kramer is better than Walsh, especially on deep passes. Never mind that Walsh threw only one interception in his three wins, while Kramer had three in Sunday's loss alone.
Although Kramer completed 29 of 48 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns against his old team, his interceptions were costly, and he couldn't get the Bears on the board in the fourth quarter. After the game the Bears desperately tried to downplay the quarterback situation, and the results were almost comical. Receivers Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham both blamed themselves for the three interceptions. "I think there was something I could have done to prevent them," said Conway, the intended receiver on two deep passes that were picked off. "It wasn't Erik's fault. When the ball's in the air, it's my ball and nobody else's."
Said Graham, who had a pass meant for him intercepted at the goal line, "It was a situation where the ball was a little high, but I feel if it's near me, I should catch it. So blame it on me and not Erik."
Nice try, gents, but it probably won't work. Renewed calls for Walsh are sure to be heard this week, and with Kramer leaving the Silverdome on crutches after spraining his foot. Wannstedt may have the face-saving reason he needs to start Walsh on Halloween against Green Bay.
An Undervalued Buc
Deep down, Paul Gruber realizes he's the best left tackle in the Central Division, but he also knows that he'll probably never make the Pro Bowl. First of all, he plays for Tampa Bay, a franchise that has racked up an NFL-record 11-straight double-digit losing seasons and also has the dubious distinction of never having sent an offensive lineman to the Pro Bowl. And Gruber is too humble to promote himself.
But get a load of his stats this year: Gruber hasn't been flagged for a penalty in any of the Bucs' seven games, including Sunday's 41-16 loss to the 49ers, and he has given up only one sack. "Paul is a true professional," says Bob Wylie, the Buc offensive line coach. "His work habits are the best I've ever seen."