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THE NFC CENTRAL
Jill Lieber
November 28, 1994
He's No. 1
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November 28, 1994

The Nfc Central

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Does Walsh think he has finally convinced people that he's a capable No. 1 quarterback? "There's still a national audience that tends to believe I can't do it," he says. "But Chicago Bear fans don't care how it looks. They just want to win."

Pro Choice

As the Buccaneer season slowly circles the drain, Tampa Bay backup safety John Lynch is playing his heart out trying to earn a starting position. That's because at season's end he'll be faced with an important decision: continue to play in the NFL or take another stab at a major league baseball career.

The Bucs drafted Lynch, a bone-jarring hitter out of Stanford, in the third round in 1993. At the time, Lynch was beginning his second season as a pitcher in the Florida Marlin organization after being selected in the second round of the '92 baseball draft. He had a 2.13 ERA in '92 for the Marlins' then Class A farm team in Erie, Pa., but he was better known for throwing the organization's first pitch, which is why his cap is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When he walked away from his promising baseball career in July '93 to give the NFL a try, Lynch left his options open. He agreed to go on the Marlins' suspended list, which gave the team his rights through '98. Then he signed a two-year deal with the Bucs, setting a goal of becoming a starter during that time. Although he has shared time with Pro Bowl free safety Thomas Everett the past two weeks, the 6'2", 220-pound Lynch is primarily a backup at both safety positions. With his contract expiring at the end of the season and the possibility that the Bucs will be sold and a new coaching staff brought in, Lynch knows he's at the crossroads of his career.

"I figured that baseball would be a quick track to the majors," says the 23-year-old Lynch, who was an outfielder at Stanford and pitched only 19 innings in relief for the Cardinal. "After playing in A ball, I realized I was a project. I made the decision to try the NFL, where you begin in the big leagues.

"The fact that I'm not a starter after 1� years makes me wonder about baseball again. The Marlins embraced me, so where would I be by now as a pitcher? I don't want the Bucs to think I'm not happy, but I want to see a bright future if I'm going to hang around."

Given the state of flux the Bucs are in, Lynch's best bet may be with the Marlins. "When he got drafted by the Bucs, I didn't think we'd ever see him again," says Gary Hughes, director of scouting for the Marlins. "I look at the summaries in USA Today every Monday morning, and I hope that he doesn't have any tackles. He's a legitimate baseball prospect—very few players can throw a 95-mile-per-hour fastball—and he's a great kid. I'd take him back in a minute."

Major Impact

The return of left guard Guy McIntyre to the starting lineup has given a major boost to the Packer offense. McIntyre, a veteran of five Pro Bowls who played 10 seasons with the 49ers before signing as a free agent with Green Bay in July, started in the season-opening victory over the Vikings but then sat out six games due to a blood clot in his left calf. As a result, center Frank Winters had to move to left guard, with Jamie Dukes taking over at center During that seven-week stretch the Packer offense was unable to run the ball (it averaged just 70.8 yards per game), make big plays or score many points (16.8 per game).

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