Seen and heard at the annual NFL owners' meetings held last week in Rancho Mirage, Calif.:
Umpire Don Denkinger a factor in a National Football League decision? Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, said Denkinger's controversial call in the sixth game of the 1985 World Series had been bothering him for months. As a result, Modell, along with 22 other owners, cast a positive vote to use a modified form of instant replay in the NFL.
"Baseball hasn't changed in 100 years," Modell said. "They keep showing that Denkinger call over and over. That's the kind of thing I care about; I don't want that happening. Showing it over and over, but doing nothing about it."
The NFL's use of the replays—it will be at the discretion of an official in the press box—will include plays of possession, such as fumbles, interceptions and receptions, and plays involving sidelines, goal lines and end lines.
"A major breakthrough," said Bill Walsh, the 49ers' coach. "The continued replays by networks affects our credibility. If the TV replay shows the official made the wrong call, the public is saying, 'Look, why can't they deal with this error?' "
"Our game is pretty good the way it is," said Chicago's Mike Ditka. "I just hope this doesn't affect the judgment of the officials on the field."
Just when they thought their distinguished careers were over, Steve Bartkowski and Joe Theismann seem to be in a seller's market. Bartkowski, a free agent who's 33 and has had five knee operations in his 11-year career, is on his most rigorous off-season workout program ever (weightlifting, running and racquet-ball) and has lost 15 pounds. Theismann, 36, is currently ahead of schedule in rehabilitating his right leg, broken last Nov. 18, and the Redskins are trying to work out his trade. The Rams will try out Bartkowski, and Theismann has made himself available to L.A.
Why would anybody be interested in these aging quarterbacks? According to scouts, this year's college draft will not be as deep there as originally thought. Illinois's Jack Trudeau has had knee problems, and BYU's Robby Bosco has impressed few pro teams. And the USFL pickings are mighty slim: The only quarterback anybody wants is Jim Kelly, and he belongs to the New Jersey Generals' Donald Trump.
"Quarterbacks are at a premium," said attorney Leigh Steinberg, who represents Bartkowski and 13 other pro quarterbacks. "With the smaller roster size and the high injury rate among quarterbacks, it's a good position to be in."
One of the trickiest areas of negotiating a leaguewide random drug-testing policy is how—or if—to deal with steroids. Most owners want to test for cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines.