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Some NFL nerves are getting a bit frazzled as the season winds down:
•In New Orleans, several Saints players were under the impression that nosetackle Tony Elliott had been fired during the second half of their 27-3 loss to Seattle. According to linebacker Rickey Jackson, defensive line coach Willie Zapalac was dissatisfied with Elliott's play when, "All of a sudden Bum [Phillips] just told Tony his career was over." "There was a disagreement at the tail end of the ball game," the Saints' head coach says. "We were very frustrated. I just told Tony to go sit on the bench."
There were other signs of Phillips's frustration. As he left the field on Sunday after the team's fifth straight loss, he was hooted by angry fans. Phillips raised his right fist in a salute and said later, "I'm doing the best I can. If they don't like it, to hell with them."
•A one-day walkout—and talk of retirement—by 49er Keith Fahnhorst, the 33-year-old All-Pro tackle, caused trouble for coach Bill Walsh. Three incidents led to Fahnhorst's walkout: Walsh overruled his election as team captain before the season opener; after the Oct. 13 loss to the Bears, Walsh indirectly took a dig at Fahnhorst's age ("If some players are on the downside of their careers...only time will tell"); and in the Nov. 3 game against Philadelphia Fahnhorst was stopped as he headed to the field for the 49ers' first offensive series and told that Walsh had decided to replace him with guard Guy McIntyre.
Said one 49er, "That was just the straw that broke the camel's back. A lot of us don't like some of the treatment around here. We don't need childish threats about losing our jobs when we make mistakes. As a motivational tool, it's kind of sophomoric and demeaning. A more honest rapport from top to bottom would help, too."
•Kellen Winslow, the Chargers' tight end, walked out of camp for a day to protest not playing more on Nov. 3 against the Broncos—Winslow's first home game since his knee surgery last year. By doing so, Winslow only widened the gap between himself and his Charger teammates. Said guard Dennis McKnight, "Not everyone in the world wants to interview Kellen Winslow anymore, and that must be hard to live with."
Rumors circulated again last week that the Cardinals were packing up and heading to Phoenix. But officials at both the Phoenix mayor's office and Arizona State University—which currently has the only stadium suitable for pro football in the Phoenix area—say talks have not resumed with Cardinal owner Bill Bid-will. "Frankly," said an ASU spokesman, "we're suspicious of any NFL team talking about moving here. We're tired of feeling used to get a better deal in other cities."
Asked why the rumors have started again, the ASU spokesman said, "We're negotiating a lease with the USFL's Arizona Outlaws. NFL supporters in town don't like that. If the lease goes through...the Outlaws will have all the fall dates in the only stadium in the Phoenix area locked up."
Meanwhile, Bidwill insists he wants to stay in St. Louis. "The stadium [capacity: 51,392] is the problem, not the city," Bid-will says. "We've got people here who say they want to solve the stadium problem, and I'm willing to wait and see."
Bidwill says that within the month he will hear from a group proposing a domed stadium for downtown St. Louis. To ready himself for that meeting, last week Bidwill was in Indianapolis studying the Hoosier Dome.