"This season is the most insecure time ever for players and coaches. The pressure to win is so great; there are fewer jobs and a larger pool of players. Guys are doing anything to succeed."
John Stallworth went home to Brownsboro, Ala., last weekend to celebrate John Jr.'s 11th birthday and to watch his son play soccer. Most of all, he went home to contemplate the future.
The Steelers' All-Pro wide receiver suffered partially torn ligaments in his left knee against Houston on Sept. 28. Stallworth chose not to undergo surgery, but rather to let the knee heal on its own, through rest and therapy. At 34, his career could be over. "I'm trying not to be afraid of the future," he says. "There are a couple of goals I still want to reach. I'd like to get 500 receptions in my career. I only need 24 more.
"I've come home to Alabama to get myself out of the football atmosphere. Emotionally, walking into a stadium isn't easy. You see life goes on without you. Easily. The team doesn't miss a beat."
Those shiny pants worn by the majority of NFL teams are becoming the fashion craze in football. The pants are made of nylon spandex woven with metallic threads, which give them their sheen. Retail: about $85 each, $10 more than the old standbys.
Dennis Ryan, the Vikings' equipment manager, says, "We went to the pants five years ago. They held up better on the Metrodome turf. Before, we'd burn through four or five pairs of pants a game; now, we go through two a year. The players also think the shiny pants are more slippery than regular pants, so opponents can't get a good hold on them."
Says Ray Earley, the Bears' equipment manager, "Some of my players say they fit better; the primpers will stand in front of the mirror, before they go out on the field, to see how they look. But I think the pants just happen to be the latest fad."
One player who, at first, didn't want to make the switch to the jazzy pants was running back Walter Payton, normally a with-it kind of guy. "He'd beg not to change pants," Earley says. "He's superstitious. He'd wear the same pants over and over and over. In Detroit in 1980, he wore through the seat of his pants. I had to wrap him in a towel just to get him off the field. Since then, he accepts changes without complaint."
Steve Young, the Bucs' quarterback, is a big proponent of the two-point conversion. "It's the greatest idea in America," says Young, who just may be the best in America at the task. Young was a terror in the USFL, converting five of seven two-pointers in his two-year career with the Los Angeles Express. He also converted one of five while at Brigham Young.
"I'd like to see the sudden-death overtime done away with," Young says. "Adding the two-point conversion to the NFL would make the game more exciting to the fans. There is a lot more strategy involved. And, not taking anything away from kickers, it would sure make the extra point an interesting play."