The talent on the Niner roster is their greatest attribute, but the desire of those talented players to answer the bell is an added plus.
More on injuries: Which team figures to benefit most from having a bye on the schedule? The 3-4 Broncos. Because they had Sunday off, they could rest four injured starters—running back Bobby Humphrey, wideout Vance Johnson, cornerback Wymon Henderson and linebacker Marc Munford, all of whom will be ready for this week's game against the Vikings. "What's killed us," says Denver coach Dan Reeves, "is the injuries we've suffered during games, where we have to scrap a game plan because we don't have the people to play it."
Humphrey's return in particular is crucial to any chance the Broncos—AFC champions three of the past four seasons—have of qualifying for the playoffs. He was the league's leading rusher through the first six weeks of the season, despite missing a game after spraining his right ankle in Week 5. "The ankle's going to bother me all year," says Humphrey, who carried only three times for five yards against Indianapolis two weeks ago. "I've got to fight through the pain. The mental aspect is going to be important, because I can't be thinking about the ankle."
Humphrey doesn't think Denver is suffering from a post-Super Bowl funk. "It'll never totally go away," he says of the 55-10 loss to the 49ers in January. "But it's not why we're where we are."
The Saints play in Cincinnati this Sunday, and New Orleans general manager Jim Finks looks with disdain on Bengal coach Sam Wyche's hurry-up techniques on offense. " Cincinnati may not intimidate the officials, but it comes close with all its gimmicks," says Finks of the Bengals' no-huddle offense and quick snaps, which could cross up an official as well as an opposing defense....
Phoenix players donated $16,000 to the Arizona group that is trying to establish Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a state holiday. If voters turn down the initiative on Nov. 6, Phoenix could lose the 1993 Super Bowl....
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs on high-scoring football: "I think we've lost our appreciation for some real battles. It's a shame, because you're missing some of the best things in football, the great hard-hitting games that may only be 13-7. It seems we'd rather have 36-35 [games], and everybody plays as sloppy as he can."
THE END ZONE
This is what a 5-1 start can do for a guy: Bears' coach Mike Ditka spent a couple of hours during Chicago's week off to film a commercial for a rustproofing company. This wasn't just any commercial. Ditka was sitting on a horse. At Soldier Field. In a full suit of armor. Is there anyone else in sports who's enough of a middle-age hunk to hawk his own men's cologne in department stores in June, and enough of a human battleship to ride, clad in armor, across TV sets in October?