The cancellation seems to have emboldened many of the players who detest artificial turf, which is the continuing shame of the NFL. "This is the best thing that could have happened for player safety," says Jacksonville defensive end Jeff Lageman. "It sends a message to players that we don't have to play if the field is unplayable, and it's a wake-up call to stadiums that the fields had better be satisfactory."
It should be a wake-up call for the eight outdoor teams that still host their games on fake grass. Chicago, New England and Kansas City have switched to real grass since 1988. And Dallas could be next, owner Jerry Jones said last week. Holdout owners should listen to Patriot owner Robert Kraft, who also owns Foxboro Stadium. He figures it costs him about $500,000 a year more for grass than for the fake stuff. But, he says, "I'm a traditionalist who loves grass and dirt on the uniform. People want to see grass, and it makes for a better quality product. More than that, every player I talk to wants grass."
Postscript: The night before rookie tailback Ki-Jana Carter was drafted by the Bengals, his agent, Leigh Steinberg, told him that it looked as if Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, with its artificial turf, would be his professional home. "Oh, AstroTurf," Carter said, disappointed. In the third week of the preseason, Carter blew out his knee on the artificial rug at the Pontiac Silverdome in a noncontact injury.
The Deion Derby
You go to visit outfielder/ cornerback Deion Sanders because you want answers, but he has very few of them. He doesn't know where he's going to play football this fall. He doesn't know where his baseball future will lead. He doesn't know if he can complete a football season without ankle surgery. Curled up on the couch of his hotel suite a few hours before his San Francisco Giants played the Mets last week, Sanders knew only one thing for sure.
"I want the football contract I sign this fall to be my last," said Sanders, last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year. "So it has to be a damn good one. I've never gotten paid what I feel I'm worth. Last year I went to the 49ers for a [Super Bowl] ring. I got it. That's over. Now pay me."
Sanders is seeking more than $3 million a year to play football. San Francisco, which paid him $1.9 million last season, and Dallas are the prime contenders, but Sanders hopes that Miami will enter the bidding, and don't count out Denver, which might end up offering the most money. It's amazing that three or four teams will joust over Sanders in light of his asking price. True, he is the best coverage cornerback in the NFL, but he will miss five weeks of football while the Giants complete the baseball season. His suitors should keep a few other things in mind as well:
?He may need arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle, which he sprained in May while playing with Cincinnati. "The Reds said it was a sprain, but it feels like it was more than that," Sanders says. "If we [the Giants] are eliminated from the race, I hope to have a 'scope, if that's what's needed, before the end of the baseball season."
?He wants to play baseball and football in the same city. That would appear to favor the 49ers' bid, and hurt the Cowboys' because the Rangers have scant interest in Sanders, and in any case he says he doesn't want to play in the American League. A Rockies-Broncos parlay would be intriguing because Bronco coach Mike Shanahan covets Sanders and Colorado manager Don Baylor thinks that he would add some much-needed speed to his club. While Wayne Huizenga owns both the Dolphins and the Florida Marlins, it is not certain that he is as willing to break the bank for Sanders this season as he was last year when the Dolphins lost out in the bidding.
?He wants to play offense. "Football was boring last year," says Sanders. "We played the Vikings late in the season, and they threw one ball at me all game. I need to play offense, even if I'm a damn decoy."