That's what Trent Dilfer has to do before the Bucs can catch the Packers
If they compare the rosters of the Bucs and the Packers—minus the starting quarterbacks-most people around the NFL would say Tampa Bay has an edge in talent. But factor Bucs passer Trent Dilfer and counterpart Brett Favre into the equation, and the advantage swings decidedly to Green Bay. "Absolutely," Dilfer says. "I'd agree with that."
Dilfer, starting his fifth year as a pro, isn't down on himself; he's just being honest. Tampa Bay is winless in its last five games against the Packers, mostly because the Bucs have scored a total of four touchdowns and averaged just eight points in those meetings. This accumulation of offensive frustration weighed heavily on Dilfer during the bus ride to the airport after Tampa Bay's 21-7 playoff loss to Green Bay last January. In the wake of a game in which he completed 11 of 36 passes for 200 yards and threw two interceptions, Dilfer remembers thinking that if he had made two or three key plays in each of the five losses to Green Bay, the Bucs wouldn't have felt the pressure to play a perfect game to beat the Packers. Favre made such plays once or twice or three times a game, and Dilfer knew he had to close the gap between himself and Favre.
So in the off-season Dilfer worked to become more athletic. "How many touchdown passes did Brett have last year?" Dilfer asks. "About 35? I bet 20 of those were by the book and 15 he created. I threw 21 touchdown passes, and I created four. You've got to be good when a guy's holding on to you; instead of taking the sack, you've got to somehow get off a seven-yard pass. This year, when I have to make a play like that, my body's going to respond."
Despite ranking last in the league in pass offense, Tampa Bay finished 10-6 last season and made its first playoff appearance since 1982. The Bucs enter this year much improved at their weakest position in '97, wide receiver. They signed free agent Bert Emanuel, formerly of the Falcons, and selected speedy Jacquez Green of Florida with the 34th pick in the draft. But until Dilfer starts making more big plays, he knows that the balance of power in the NFC Central won't shift to Tampa Bay.
Patriots, Carroll Question Glenn
Second-year Patriots coach Pete Carroll says that Bill Parcells's shadow will always follow him, but this season he expects the pressure to be nothing like what he experienced in 1997. Still, if Carroll can't inspire wideout Terry Glenn to play up to his potential, as Parcells did by pushing Glenn through a standout rookie season in '96, there will surely be more mentions of the Pats' former coach.
When New England opened camp last week, Carroll admitted he was "very disappointed" that Glenn hadn't participated in about a dozen of the team-prescribed 40 off-season workouts. Told that Carroll was disappointed, Glenn, who as a result of his absences failed to collect a $50,000 bonus, said, "Yeah, he probably would be, but I was in the program for the most part. It's just that I have a two-year-old son at home in Columbus [ Ohio], and when I left here after our [early June] minicamp, I had so much joy being around him that I stayed with him. I worked out there and at my home in Florida."
However, a source close to Glenn says, "He never would have missed those workouts under Parcells. He respected Bill. He was afraid of Bill. He respects Pete but not in the same way."
Glenn followed a 90-catch rookie season with 27 receptions during an injury-plagued 1997, then vowed to be more diligent in his conditioning. In a pair of practices one day last week, he looked like a star, repeatedly beating reserve Patriots corners. But if he's not outstanding in October, Glenn will draw Carroll's wrath. "I want to prove to Pete he can count on me," Glenn says.