An All-Pro at a vital position who wants to play for the Bucs? Get the contract done, Rich. Immediately, if not sooner.
Injuries to three running backs have forced the Bears to rush prime prospect Rashaan Salaam into the starting lineup earlier than they wanted. Now Salaam stands a chance of becoming the Bears' alltime leading rookie rusher.
Walter Payton, in 1975, set the team's rookie record for attempts (196), and Beattie Feathers, in 1934, set the mark for yards (1,004). But Gale Sayers, in 1965, had the best all-around rookie year, gaining 867 yards in 166 carries while scoring 132 points, an NFL rookie record that stood until Bear kicker Kevin Butler racked up 144 in 1985. Through four games Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner, has 171 yards and three touchdowns to show for 57 carries.
Salaam, whose biggest problem to date has been a propensity to cough up the football, is his own toughest critic. Although he scored two touchdowns against the Packers in Week 2, he gave himself poor marks because he was stopped twice after the Bears had a first down at the Green Bay five-yard line midway through the final quarter. The Bears settled for a Butler field goal in what turned out to be a 27-24 loss. Afterward nobody had to remind Salaam that the Bears might have won if he had punched it in.
"That's where the game was right there," he said. "And it's killing me that I didn't get in around the goal line because I'm usually real tough around there."
The Chicago media has mixed feelings about Salaam. On the one hand, they can look forward to covering his development. But on the other, Salaam is a quiet man who would rather face the 49ers or the Cowboys than a group of reporters. And get this: He doesn't believe in drawing attention by doing silly celebration dances.
"I've scored touchdowns," he said. "I don't understand why so much attention is paid to football players. We shouldn't be put on a pedestal like we are."
An Early-Season Hit
In their preseason camp the Packers had to be wondering why they had wasted a first-round pick on Craig Newsome, a 5'11½", 188-pound cornerback from Arizona State. Newsome was overly aggressive while covering receivers on short patterns, enabling Packer wideouts to burn him repeatedly on the deep stuff.