Four days later, Giles signed with Detroit.
The recovery of Joe Montana, the 49ers quarterback, has been remarkable. When the All-Pro underwent surgery to remove a herniated disk on Sept. 15, many feared his brilliant career would be over. But last week Montana was close to his old self in practice. His target date for return is Nov. 17.
Still another task lies ahead: answering the 10,000-plus get-well cards Montana received while convalescing, as well as acknowledging the hundreds of flower arrangements, stuffed animals, dolls, ornaments, balloons, ceramic footballs, T-shirts, pizza coupons, religious books and cassette tapes loaded with music-to-rehab-by.
That monumental task belongs to Jackie Walker, the wife of 49er public relations director Jerry Walker. Montana hired Jackie five years ago because he wanted to be certain every piece of mail was answered with a personal touch. "But that was only 20 letters a day," says Walker.
The get-well cards fill 11 postal baskets—and the Walkers' den. Jackie has already sent out 800 replies. Her target date: Thanksgiving. "I want Joe to come over to see this mass of mail," she says. "He needs to see all of it to fully appreciate the outpouring of emotion."
The Bengals have dropped the longtime tradition of awarding game balls after victories. "We've cut out the frills," says head coach Sam Wyche. "We've decided we're all in this together. There are no heroes and no goats."
Tell that to Junior Tautalatasi, the Eagles' rookie running back. He was a hero in Philadelphia's 16-0 win over Atlanta on Oct. 5—his 56-yard catch set up the team's only TD—but he felt like the goat. When the team awarded him a game ball, his name was misspelled. The inscription read: Junior Thutalatasi. No matter. Coach Buddy Ryan has been calling him Junior Smith since the day the Eagles drafted him in the 10th round out of Washington State.
But sometimes frills are nice. Omar Valdes, a 29-year-old free-lance artist from Narragansett, R.I., creates tiny masterpieces with each game ball he paints for the Jets. Not only does he put the team's logo, the player's name and the score on the ball, but Valdes also uses four colors of model airplane paint—the Jets' green and white as well as the opponent's colors. Then Valdes drives four hours to the Jets' Long Island training camp in Hempstead to present his creation. For his work, he is paid about $25 a ball and someone usually gives him a couple of Jets tickets.
From the NFL's Department of Anti-Obfuscation, Amplified Clarification and Unadulterated Doublespeak after a New York Jets punt rolled through the legs of the Saints' Eric Martin Sunday, leading to this instant-replay analysis by Nick Skorich, an assistant supervisor of officials:
"Checking on replay, the ball, of course, hit and rolled between his legs. As near as I can tell in replay it appeared, but I couldn't make sure, that he touched the ball with his right hand as it went through. It was such a situation, but it wasn't clear-cut definitely touched. It certainly was an inconclusive view from up here. It's certainly not in the indisputable class as where we have to see it. I later checked with the field judge [Don Dorkowski—113] as he was leaving the field at halftime and asked him what did you see on that particular play. He said, 'I saw him touch it with his right hand.' I could not refute what he called."