SI Vault
Peter King
October 20, 1997
Youth Movement An influx of young talent has given the game a shot in the arm, Smith plays through pain, Jets kicker is a keeper
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October 20, 1997

The Nfl

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Parcells likes to deflate promising players, but Hall looks like one of the best rookie free-agent signings of the season. He made only 14 of 21 field goals last year at Wisconsin, but he caught the Jets' eye with the 53 touchbacks he produced on kickoffs. His 20 touchbacks in the Jets' first seven games are already as many as any NFL kicker had all of last season. New York foes are starting drives after kickoffs seven-plus yards deeper, on average, than they did a year ago. What's more, after being tutored in training camp by erstwhile Parcells kicker Matt Bahr, Hall has made 13 of 17 field goal attempts, including three from beyond 50 yards.

Parcells is equally fond of Hall because of the way he handled one of the four kicks he has missed—a 29-yarder at New England on Sept. 14 that could have won the game in the final minute of regulation but was blocked. The Jets lost in overtime, and Parcells said nothing to Hall that night. In the parking lot the next day, however, the coach asked the rookie, "What'd you think of the kick?"

"Thought it was a bad kick," Hall replied.

That's what Parcells wanted to hear. He thinks a kicker must remain even-tempered and never look for excuses. Reminded of the story last week, Hall shrugged, "It was a bad kick," he said. "I react the way I react because I don't want to get too high or too low. That's not good for a kicker."

Brownout in Green Bay

The best run-stopping tackle in football, the Packers' 360-pound Gilbert Brown, is second only to Brett Favre as the team's MVP. Brown, who's surprisingly powerful considering that he's probably the roundest man in the NFL, bruised his hip in the first half of the Packers' opener against the Bears, then strained his right knee two weeks later against the Dolphins. He missed a game against the Buccaneers and the rematch with the Bears on Sunday, but the Packers, who are off this week, hope he'll return on Oct. 27 at New England. Without Brown and cornerback Craig New-some, who's out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the Pack has fallen from first in the league in team defense last year to 24th, and from fourth against the run to 27th. The Bucs stunned Green Bay with seven runs of 10 or more yards. "Not having [Brown] against the run is a lot like playing defense against the pass without a cornerback," says Green Bay defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur. "He takes up two people every play he's in there."

Brown's replacements, 295-pound Bob Kuberski and 310-pound Darius Holland, don't begin to fill his shoes. "Gilbert Brown is unblockable," says Tampa Bay director of player personnel Jerry Angelo. "They miss him so much because there's nobody playing today who can neutralize him one-on-one."

Earth to Sean
In August, Redskins holdout Sean Gilbert, who is somewhere between the fifth- and 10th-best defensive tackle in the game, turned down a chance to become the second-highest-paid player at his position. Washington offered $3.6 million a year; Gilbert wanted $5 million. So far he has missed seven paychecks. At $3.6 million a year, that comes to $1,482,352.94 he has forfeited. Has there ever been a more senseless holdout?


The Packers' Fritz Shurmur believes the Buccaneers' 1-2 backfield punch of Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott is the best he has seen in years, even though neither player is 24 yet....

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