"Let me down?" Palmer said, repeating the story with incredulity. "He had to be kidding. This guy's one of the most inspirational players the league has seen." So it shouldn't have surprised Palmer when he walked into the weight room at the Browns' training facility at 7 a.m. on Monday to find Spielman, alone, getting in some lifting. That work ethic, as much as his being from Massillon or having played at Ohio State, was why Spielman was the reborn Browns' poster boy.
A few years ago, when SI wanted to do a profile on Spielman, I asked him if I could spend an evening at home with him, watching game film and understanding how he prepared for his weekly Sunday war. "My life ain't The NFL Today," he snarled. "Some things are sacred."
Fans can bemoan the loss of the retired John Elway and Barry Sanders all they want. I'll miss Spielman even more.
Grass Getting A Hard Look
Every year the NFL Players Association polls its members to find out what their major concerns are, and every time a hot-button issue is artificial turf. Last year 87% of the players said they would prefer to play on grass. In 1992, 15 of the league's 28 teams played their home games on artificial turf. Assuming that grass is installed at Giants Stadium, as is likely, 23 of 32 teams—including an expansion club in either Houston or Los Angeles—would be playing on grass by 2002.
Teams are exploring various options for using natural turf. Grass trucked in from Alabama and installed over the artificial surface at the Superdome held up well in the Packers-Saints game last Saturday. Giants Stadium, which was sodded for the preseason, would be the ultimate test; at least 26 football and soccer games are scheduled there from August through early January. However, the number of games shouldn't be a problem, because sections of a field can be replaced. A walk across the grass after the Jets-Giants game last Saturday found the midfield area worn but eminently playable.
Bills Should Stay With Flutie
"I need to get two quarterbacks ready," says Bills coach Wade Phillips, explaining his rationale in having Doug Flutie, who finished '98 as one of the league's best quarterbacks, and Rob Johnson split passing duties in camp. Flutie is expected to start the opener against the Colts, but Phillips added to the air of uncertainty by announcing that Johnson will get the final preseason start on Saturday against the Steelers. "Teams have used two quarterbacks successfully," Phillips says. "Look at Dallas, with [Roger] Staubach and [Craig] Morton."
Not so fast, Wade. In 1971 the Cowboys played Staubach and Morton during the first half of the season, going so far as to alternate die two repeatedly during a Week 7 loss to die Bears that dropped Dallas to 4-3. Then coach Tom Landry gave Staubach the job full time, and the Cowboys ran off 10 straight wins, culminating with a 24-3 rout of the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI—of which Staubach was the MVP.