- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Even without Billy Ray, the Baltimore defense is topnotch. It is led by Mike (Intimidate! Destroy!) Curtis, the middle linebacker who says he won't even let his marriage mellow him. He'd get a divorce first. Curtis characterizes the Colts well: "We do what we have to do." Doing it with him principally are: End Bubba Smith and Linebacker Ted (Mad Stork) Hendricks, 6'7" and 215 and always around the ball making weird tackles.
Meanwhile, Morrall says he's getting that oldtime feeling. He is holstered up and talking like Jimmy Stewart in the last reel: "We're just two old quarterbacks, John and me, but...." It is enough to make a rival pause.
Just when Mr. Namath was convincing the world (or at least The New York Times) that beneath that egomaniacal exterior beat the heart of a really good Joe, a Detroit linebacker leaned on his left knee. His replacement is Al Woodall. When the Jets beat the Giants in an exhibition, they did it by letting Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer run the ball. It is a good running game, abetted by No. 1 draftee John Riggins.
Not only is Namath gone, but so is his best receiver, George Sauer Jr., a sensitive young man who quit when he finally realized pro football wasn't Albert Schweitzer working with lepers. The other distinguished deep threat, Don Maynard, is 34 years old and didn't score a touchdown in 1970. Richard Caster, 6'5" and quick, better help. It would help if he held onto the ball.
The offensive line is good enough (All-Pro Winston Hill is plenty good enough), but half the defensive line defected. Tackle Verlon Biggs never liked it much in New York and is now with Washington. Tackle Steve Thompson quit to pursue a more Christian life. Still, there's All-Pro Tackle John Elliott and at end a healthier Gerry Philbin. The linebacking is good, too, as is the secondary.
The fact remains, as one admiring rival points out, that Coach Weeb Ewbank's teams "are never flat. They come to play." The difficulty this year is that they play their first three games at Baltimore, at St. Louis and at Miami. They may be 0-3 before the doctors chip off that famous cast.
What the Jets used to be is what the Buffalo Bills are fast becoming. Fool around, struggle for a yard, eke out a first down, then wham! Did anyone get the license number? The culprits have been well publicized: O. J. Simpson; Marlin Briscoe, No. 1 AFC receiver last year; Quarterback Dennis Shaw, Rookie of the Year; and now, Extra Special Added Attraction J. D. Hill, the wide receiver from Arizona State. The other night in Atlanta, wearing pretty red shoes, Hill caught touchdown passes of 60 and 65 yards. Alas, it looks like Hill will be out for the season following knee surgery.
Harvey Johnson, their new coach, has the Bills fired up. O.J. is happy; J.D. is still gung-ho. There were five fights on the practice field one week. Asked what he needed to make them real contenders, Johnson said, "More players with initials instead of first names."
Did the Boston Patriots, those lovable old patsies, really cause a traffic jam? Well, not exactly. The New England Patriots (same team, new name) did, in Foxboro, Mass. around their new 61,000-seat—or, more exactly, backless, aluminum bench—stadium, which is unique in that, for a time, it appeared to be both access and egress proof. Furthermore, none of the 600 toilets could be flushed. In a subsequent experiment, 350 toilets were flushed at once, radically lowering the water pressure.