Giants quarterback Kent Graham gets ignored, though he's the starter
In the Giants' impressive preseason wins over the Vikings and the Jaguars, starting quarterback Kent Graham completed 66% of his passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Two days after the victory over Jacksonville, as Graham walked toward the cafeteria at New York's training camp in Albany, none of the media members who had assembled in the area asked him a thing. Eight reporters instead surrounded Graham's backup, Kerry Collins, who was questioned about his already well-documented abstention from alcohol. That's the way it has gone in the Giants' camp: Graham has owned the playing field; the newcomer Collins has owned the interviewers.
Though he won't say it, the lack of attention bothers Graham, an eight-year journeyman who, in addition to two stints with the Giants, has played for the Cardinals and the Lions. It also irks him that the football world seems to be waiting for his first bad game so Collins, who signed an eye-popping four-year, $16.9 million deal in February can move into the starting job. After all, Collins is making so much more than Graham, and money talks.
"Four times as much," Graham said last Saturday after completing 13 of 22 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' 16-10 loss to the Jets. "I think the media have blown it up a bit, but I understand it's a valid story. It's something I've thought about."
The most stunning aspect of the Giants' acquisition of Collins was the $5 million signing bonus he received, though he was coming off a disastrous season with the Panthers and the Saints, and hadn't performed well in 1997 either. With 11 completions in 24 attempts, Collins has done little to distinguish himself this preseason, but his presence apparently has done plenty for Graham, a career 51% passer. "I'll tell you why Kent's a different player," says cornerback Jason Sehorn. " Kerry Collins. Kent's a battler, and he knows the team has given all that money to Kerry and everyone's handed the job to Kerry. It's been all the motivation he needs."
Knowing When, And Why, to Go
What was going through the mind of Browns linebacker Chris Spiel-man as he lay on the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium last Saturday, with no feeling in his arms and legs? What was he thinking later that night when he knew retirement was inevitable? After sitting out last season to care for his wife, Stefanie, who was battling breast cancer, and their two children, he must have been contemplating how unjust this turn of events was. Surely, after 10 seasons with the Lions and the Bills he thought he had to fight through this injury so he could play one year for the team he had worshiped as a kid in Massillon, Ohio.
"He had a couple of emotions," Stefanie recalled on Monday, after her husband was forced to retire because of a narrowing of his spinal canal. Doctors told him that stingers like the 45-second deadening of the nerves that he experienced after colliding with Bears center Casey Wiegmann would only get worse with every tackle. (Spielman missed the second half of the '97 season after having neck surgery.) "He said that he felt like he was letting down [their children] Madison, and Noah because they'd never get to see him play. And he said he felt sorry for all those people who bought his Browns jersey, the 54 SPIELMAN jersey."
She sighed deeply, trying to collect herself as she recalled Chris's words. "That shows what land of man I married," Stefanie said. "He feels so much for other people."
On Sunday morning Chris, one of the best middle linebackers of his generation, met with Browns coach Chris Palmer. Head bowed, he told Palmer, "I'm sorry I let you down."