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King for a Day
Everyone should have the kind of day Colt coach Rick Venturi had on Sunday. Here was a guy who hadn't been a winning head coach for 4,439 days, since Sept. 15, 1979, when his Northwestern team beat Wyoming 27-22. Here was a guy who, three days before Sunday's game, had told the most famous Colt since Johnny Unitas—running back Eric Dickerson—that he was suspended for four weeks without pay. Here was a guy whose team hadn't scored a touchdown in seven weeks.
Now you can understand why, after Indianapolis beat the Jets 28-27 in the frigid mist of Giants Stadium, Venturi looked as if he had been shot out of a cannon. "Except for some personal, family things," said the bright-eyed, hyper Venturi when he stopped jumping up and down long enough to talk to the press after the game, "this is the best feeling I've ever had in my life, without a doubt."
New York led 14-0 late in the second quarter and was jamming the ball down the Colts' throats with the rushes of Brad Baxter and Blair Thomas. The score would have been worse if declining 40-year-old Jet kicker Pat Leahy hadn't missed a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter, his shortest miss since 1977, and a 44-yarder in the second.
But just before halftime, the fortunes of the woebegone Colts underwent a remarkable transformation: After going 57 possessions without a touchdown, Indy scored a TD on four straight series. Jeff George threw a 49-yard TD strike to Jessie Hester a minute before halftime, Clarence Verdin weaved and sprinted 88 yards with the second-half kickoff for another touchdown, and George found Hester and Billy Brooks with third-quarter touchdown throws. Twenty-eight points in 14 minutes! The football gods had finally smiled on Venturi.
Meanwhile, three time zones away, Dickerson watched Star Trek instead of football at his Southern California home. The Colts suspended him for insubordination, after Dickerson said he had hurt his leg during a practice and was too injured to continue. The team says it has witnesses who heard Dickerson say, "I'm not hurt, but I'm not practicing," midway through the workout.
The suspension could cost Dickerson some $585,000, but he and his lawyer, Marvin Demoff, were expected to argue his case for reinstatement in binding arbitration this week before mediator Sam Kagel in San Francisco.
Dickerson says he's most worried that teams who might want to deal for him after the season will shy away because of his umpteenth incident in a nine-year career. "I'll take the heat for a lot of the things I've done," he said on Sunday night, "but this is just unfair and unjust."
If ever a franchise needed a football czar—a proven NFL presence such as Bill Walsh or Bill Parcells—to come to its rescue, it's the Bucs, 2-8 after a 30-21 victory over the Lions on Sunday. Here's how screwed up Tampa Bay is: A month before the start of last season, Ray Perkins, the Bucs' coach at the time, dealt their 1992 first-round draft choice to the Colts for unproven and whiny quarterback Chris Chandler. Also in 1990, only one Tampa Bay player—cornerback Wayne Haddix, who intercepted seven passes and returned three of them for touchdowns—was named to the Pro Bowl. Last week, the Bucs cut Chandler and Haddix on the same day.