The prospects aren't good. "It looks like he just doesn't want to play football," 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo says. "His agent, David Perrine, is asking for an annuity that's going to guarantee him $100,000 a year for life. O.K., say that even that's possible. Say you could set one up that would start paying off 10 years down the road. They're still asking for a contract that's guaranteed for three years, whether he plays or doesn't play, plus that annuity. He's 32, and he's been in the league nine years. Would you make a deal like that?"
"It's tough," Lott says. "It's a tough situation all around. But something's got to give."
There were other aspects to the 49ers' performance on Sunday that weren't exactly encouraging. They committed 141 yards' worth of penalties, 27 off their 13-year-old club record. Some of them were unfair, such as the 25-yarder for interference on Mario Clark; he had perfect position on Kenny Jackson and slowed down for the ball. Some were merited. And one was out of the pages of Ripley, a 15-yarder handed out to punter Max Runager for pretending to be roughed and flopping.
"I heard Max ask the referee, Ben Dreith, 'What did I do?' " right guard Randy Cross said. "And he told him, 'Nobody was near you, and you dropped like a Mack truck hit you.' "
The 49ers benefited from some big plays. Inside linebacker Jim Fahnhorst, who was George Allen's middle backer for two years in the USFL, cut off a fourth-quarter Eagle threat in 49er territory with a one-handed interception.
"My left hand, that's the one I always do it in practice with," said Fahnhorst, who'd been a tight end for one year at the University of Minnesota. "My right hand, no. Impossible. I broke my right wrist in college, and it's never been the same."
Keena Turner, an outside linebacker, was flying around the field all afternoon, almost singlehandedly trying to shore up the faltering pass defense, and he made the defensive play of the first half, knocking the ball loose from tight end John Spagnola just outside the Niner goal line. And then there was Clark, who made the most memorable play in 49er history three years ago when he caught the TD pass that beat Dallas in the NFC Championship game.
His 20-yard catch against the Eagles was vintage Clark, a sideline leap to pluck the ball out of the sky. His 51-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter was a good read. He got himself down-field in perfect position between the strong safety (Ray Ellis) and the corner-back ( Herman Edwards) in zone coverage, and then got by Ellis for the score. The catches represent two more large steps in Clark's psychological rehabilitation after his return from the serious knee injury he suffered against Dallas in that last regular-season game of 1983.
"I feel like I'm close to getting where I used to be," he said. "I'm concentrating on the ball now instead of my knees. When I got hurt in the Dallas game I was in tight, just blocking, and the play was over when I got hit by the pile. My foot was stuck and my knee got hit. The medial collateral ligament was torn in three places. I heard it pop all three times. They sewed the ligament back together, and it was a good, clean job, but the mental part of my game still was way off.
"In the preseason I kept feeling the pile coming at me every time I blocked. Now I'm feeling a lot better about things. I'm sure the injury is still in the back of my mind, but every game I keep feeling better."