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Swann never played college football, because he scored so poorly on the SATs four years ago. His first two pro seasons were something of a failure as well. "But you should see him now," coach Joe Bugel said recently. "He's ready to be one of the best defensive linemen in football." Swann spent the preseason throwing guards around like pillows. He has learned how to weight-train, how to study his opponent and, not insignificantly, how to bypass fast-food drive-throughs. "What I ate used to be my enemy," he says. "But now I'm eating the right foods, and I want to be a player who is feared, a guy who can disrupt every play."
7. Can Joe Montana and Lawrence Taylor still play?
During a spring minicamp the Kansas City Chiefs were carefully monitoring every pass thrown by their new quarterback. The Chiefs were taking no chances with Montana's surgically repaired right elbow: He was allowed to make 50 throws, including warmups, during each session. Last year, in San Francisco, Montana adhered to a similarly stringent pitch count each practice, but he still had pain in his elbow and numbness in his right hand. This year?
"You really don't have to be so careful," Montana's physical therapist, Stan Conte, told Chief coaches while they watched one of the minicamp workouts. "Joe could throw 100 easy."
In 1991 doctors reattached a tendon in Montana's elbow by sewing the tendon with sutures, drilling three holes in the knobby elbow bone, pulling the sutures through the holes and tying the tendon back down to the bone. He missed the entire '91 season and all of '92 except for one half in the final 49er regular-season game. But this year he says he's fit to play a full season. And the Chiefs are absolutely gaga over him. "I'd be shocked if, physically, Joe couldn't make it through the year," says offensive coordinator Paul Hackett.
Montana's rehabilitation, before and after his half of football against the Detroit Lions last December, has been all-consuming—he even had a mountain climber working with him on fingertip exercises to strengthen his grip. "I'm somewhere between 15 and 20 percent stronger than I was in the Detroit game," he says. And the early returns are promising: Montana completed more than 60% of his preseason passes and said he felt no elbow pain.
The Chiefs will coddle him a bit by having him throw normally on Wednesday and Thursday in practice, giving him Friday off, and having him throw lightly on Saturday just to loosen up. The Kansas City game plan, though, makes no concession to Montana's arm. "We've worked our butts off on the deep balls with Joe," Hackett says. "We will not baby him."
The other first-ballot Hall of Famer making a comeback, Lawrence Taylor, says he may take a series or two off in games this year so he'll be fresher in the fourth quarter, where he has tended to fade in recent years. But his right Achilles tendon, torn in November 1992, is not even sore, he says. Taylor, 34, had three sacks in his first 40 preseason plays, and he's still the best pass rusher the Giants have. A larger question has to do with Taylor's get-up-and-go if the Giants head south. "Lawrence will be his old self as long as the Giants are contenders," one former teammate said this summer. "If they're not, he'll lose interest, and he won't be effective anymore."
8. Who will he the Rookies of the Year?
Offense: New Orleans Saint tackle William Roaf. Defense: Green Bay defensive back George Teague. O.K., Roaf doesn't have much of a chance, because there are no statistics for offensive linemen and because Garrison Hearst could rush for 1,200 yards in Phoenix. But the Saints, who cut veteran Tootie Robbins (after paying him a $500,000 reporting bonus) to hand the starting right tackle job to Roaf, have been wowed by the young man's ability to drive-block and pass-block equally well in camp. He had better be good: The Saints dealt one of the game's best pass rushers, outside linebacker Pat Swilling, to Detroit to get Roaf with the eighth pick in the April draft.