"We don't need to go 0-2," said Ford. "This is a good football team, with good players."
We'll find out exactly how good over the next 14 games. Since they moved to Detroit in 1934, the Lions have never reached the playoffs after starting 0-2.
Two games into the 1995 season the Packers continue to feel their way into the post-Sterling Sharpe era. But fourth-year receiver Robert Brooks, now the team's Z, or No. 1, wideout, isn't daunted by the task because he has done it before. It was Brooks who followed Sharpe at South Carolina. The result: Brooks broke Sharpe's Gamecock record for touchdown catches and left campus ranked second to Sterling in career receptions and receiving yards. "It was the same situation," says Brooks. "I stepped right in and took his place. There was nothing else said about it after the first season."
Give Brooks points for bravura, but give Green Bay offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis credit for common sense. Knowing that no Packer receiver can catch the ball and run with it as powerfully as Sharpe, the team's alltime leading receiver, did before being sidelined late last season with a spinal injury, Lewis has drilled quarterback Brett Favre, who grew accustomed to making Sharpe his first, second and third options, on shuffling through his 1-2-3 progression in search of the open receiver. "We would feature Sterling so much that sometimes we'd have him change positions and move to the other side of the field," Lewis says. "That hurt our other receivers. Now, instead of one guy having 100 catches, we want to have a lot of guys with 50 or 60 catches." In the season-opening loss to the Rams, eight different Packers caught passes.
Brooks, faster than Sharpe but 27 pounds lighter, looks as if he'll turn out to be well worth the $3.9 million, three-year contract the Packers gave him before the season. "He goes at it full speed, he's a tough guy, and he can catch it in a crowd and run with it," Lewis says. "There are some things he does better than Sterling."
At the X, or No. 2 wideout position, that Brooks played last season, Anthony Morgan and Mark Ingram give the Packers a dependable tandem. Morgan was resigned, for $350,000, after Andre Rison turned down the Packers' $16 million, five-year offer. The Packers acquired Ingram from the Dolphins for a fourth-round draft pick. "We're waiting for one of them to emerge as a starter," Lewis said. Ingram reported to camp late and out of shape but nevertheless outplayed Morgan against the Rams. Ingram came off the bench to catch six passes for 77 yards, while Morgan had two receptions for 12 yards.
Of the other three wideouts on the Packer roster, Charles Jordan, a third-year player out of Long Beach City College, seems to have the best chance of becoming one of those 60-catches-a-year guys that the Packers need to survive life after Sterling.
Worth Every Buck
In this revolving-door era of the NFL, Tony Stargell and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are counting their blessings for a move the fifth-year defensive back didn't make. Three days before the season opener, the Bucs almost let Stargell slip away to Seattle, which seems unthinkable now that Stargell has emerged as a pinch hitter deluxe.