The content of the sidelines argument between George and Jones has not been divulged, but last Saturday night Jones said, "I would be less than a man if I took what Jeff said to me, and the team knows it."
George believes much of the rancor stems from his refusal to accept the Falcons' long-term offer last year. "It was a bad contract, and I wasn't the only one who thought it was," he says. "Leigh [Steinberg, his agent] did too. There was no way it was worth signing for five years."
So Atlanta signed him to a one-year, $3.6 million contract last August with the proviso that he would become an unrestricted free agent after this season. In effect, George was a lame duck in Atlanta this year. Jones, whose team is 0-4, is on the spot too. In the days leading up to the Falcons' 39-17 loss to the 49ers in San Francisco on Sunday, he was repeatedly explaining his decision to suspend George. "I tried to tell Jeff there was nothing behind this, nothing sinister, but he believes ownership is against him and ownership was behind this," Jones said. "All I can say is it's not true. This was my call."
Because there's a dearth of quarterbacks in the NFL, George will get another chance. Whenever that time comes, he would be smart to keep his mouth shut and exhibit a little humility. "If I can just have a chance to sit across from a coach and let him get to know me, I think I'll be able to find a place," George says.
Indianapolis, his hometown, was the place for him. Atlanta, with a quarterback-friendly mentor in Jones, was the place for him. His time is running out. George needs to look into the mirror and see that his career hangs in the balance.
Knee Deep in Trouble
The left-knee injury that the Bengals' Ki-Jana Carter suffered in August 1995, requiring reconstructive surgery that sidelined him all of last season, could keep him from becoming a great running back, or even a good one. On Sunday against the Broncos, Carter looked tentative and showed none of the explosiveness he displayed during his career at Penn State. The Bengals can't hide it any longer: Their best back is Garrison Hearst.
Hearst, a 1,000-yard rusher for the Cardinals last season whom the Bengals surprisingly plucked off the waiver wire in August, finished with 71 yards on 10 carries in Cincinnati's 14-10 loss to Denver. Carter, on the other hand, ran five times for 13 yards. "Tentative? I don't feel tentative," said Carter, the first player picked in the '95 draft. "Five carries aren't going to let you get anything going. Healthwise, there's no reason I shouldn't be playing. I'm fine."
He doesn't look it. He carried four times for nine yards on the game's first series, and after that he was used primarily as a decoy split end. For the first time the Bengals appear to have doubts about Carter. Asked last Saturday if he felt Carter will live up to his billing, offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet wavered. "I hope he can, but I'm having a little doubt now," Coslet said. "He's a little tentative, and we didn't see that looking at him in college. It's not a knock on him; he had a major injury. We just need to see the confidence and instant acceleration we expect out of him."
In his four-game NFL career, Carter has run for 103 yards. Take away one 31-yard carry, and he has 44 carries for 72 yards, a 1.6-yard average. There's more bad news in the form of a clause in the seven-year, $19.2 million deal that Carter signed in July 1995. It stipulates that if Carter plays at least 45% of the offensive plays in either of his first two seasons, the contract becomes a five-year deal, which would allow him to become a free agent in 2000.