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"I just felt I had to take time out for a really close friend," said Blackledge, who used his day off to fly round trip between K.C. and Seattle. "He's like family to me, and I knew members of his family would have a hard time getting there very soon."
Blackledge was reluctant to talk about the trip, in part because he feared his K.C. teammates might think he wasn't preparing as well as he could for Sunday's game against Cincinnati. There was no cause for concern. Blackledge threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns in the Chiefs' 27-22 win.
John McKay, the Tampa Bay Bucs coach, is suffering from a cataract in his right eye and will undergo surgery Sept. 18 or 19 in Miami. McKay has little vision in that eye—his game-plan chart is printed in large type—and fears he may have cataracts in his left eye, too.
"I don't want any sympathy, but it has become a problem," said McKay. "It just got worse and worse. Now, I have to have something done."
McKay expects to be hospitalized briefly, then return to the team in time for its game against the Giants Sept. 23. Insiders say, however, that regardless of the cataract, McKay has looked extremely tired lately. He has erupted after both Buc losses, lashing out at highly-paid veterans. "He's very depressed right now," says a source close to the team. "He's doing an awful lot of soul searching."
At Southern Mississippi, his teammates called him "Sweet." In Pittsburgh, they're calling him "Hot." For Louis Lipps, the Steelers' sensational rookie receiver, the latest nickname rings true: In two games, Hot Lipps has had 10 catches for 260 yards and three touchdowns.
As a rookie NFL coach last season, John Robinson got the Rams into the playoffs largely on the running of rookie Eric Dickerson. This year he's varying his offense with a San Diego-style passing game built around rookie Ron Brown, the Olympic sprinter (gold medal in the 4X100 relay). L.A. receivers will be running stem routes, patterns they can change depending on how the defensive back plays them. The quarterback must, in turn, react to those changes.
But L.A.'s five receivers total just 25 career starts and have less than seven seasons of pro experience, and the New Look offense has been miserable. In a 20-13 opening-game loss to Dallas, Vince Ferragamo, whose career quarterback rating is 77.8, threw 22 incompletions and was intercepted four times, earning him what may be the lowest rating ever (2.5); Brown lined up wrong twice, leading to two penalties; and another wide receiver, Henry Ellard, made eight route mistakes (turned it out when he should have run a deep post, ran a fly pattern when he should have hooked). Against Cleveland on Sunday, though the Rams won 20-17, Ferragamo threw for just 101 yards and had two interceptions. His rating barely rose, to 13.8.
"We might have too many variations to our passing game," Robinson says. "Many of the routes can change based on sight adjustments. Some of our guys were adjusting to guys eating hot dogs in the fourth and fifth rows. If we return to the simplicity we had last year, though, we'll see those nine-man fronts again and Eric won't be able to run."