In the Eye of This Beholder
Best Team I Saw: the Broncos, who displayed not an ounce of complacency. Worst Team I Saw: the Saints, who for the second consecutive year will have the sorriest offense in the league. Best Rookie I Saw: Steelers wideout-return man Hines Ward, who will be a hero in Pittsburgh by Thanksgiving. Best Emerging Star I Saw: Dolphins second-year defensive end Jason Taylor, who has the speed of a wide receiver. Teams on the Rise: 1) Ravens, 2) Raiders, 3) Vikings. Teams on the Decline: 1) Bengals, 2) Rams, 3) Bears.
Great Summer For Elway Heir
Broncos rookie quarterback Brian Griese played it smart in the preseason, quietly eating up as much as John Elway would feed him about coach Mike Shanahan's complex offense. At practice Elway would sidle up to Griese after a play and tell him why he threw to the split end when the logical choice would have been the tight end, or why he audibled to one play instead of another. So Griese sits and learns for the next season or two, after which he will probably inherit the starting job. "It's the best situation for me," he says. "I'm not getting my brains beat in when I'm not ready, and I'm learning from the best."
Griese threw the winning touchdown pass in the Broncos' first two preseason games—eight yards to running back Detron Smith against the Rams and 48 yards to wideout Justin Armour against the Saints. In four games Griese completed 27 of 50 passes for 372 yards and had just one interception. In the locker room he is earning respect. "Brian is going to be a great player in this system for a long time," says Elway.
The End Zone
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Rams cornerback Ryan McNeil, who ended his holdout on Monday, tried to sell his services around the NFL by publishing a 14-page brochure that includes eight pages of multicolored pie charts and bar graphs. "A destined Pro Bowler and Hall of Famer, in five years McNeil has become the league's most complete cornerback," the brochure reads. While McNeil led the NFL in interceptions in '97, he has yet to be selected to the Pro Bowl.