- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
San Francisco obviously has to fill two big holes. In place of Lott, a certain Hall of Famer, will be either third-year man Johnny Jackson or journeyman David Waymer. And unless the 49ers get a superior running back in the draft or through a trade, they'll need three men to replace the multitalented Craig: Keith Henderson, Harry Sydney and the smallish Dexter Carter. That's on the field. Off the field Lott and Craig were peerless leaders.
Little wonder Niner fans are up in arms. The San Jose Mercury News asked its readers if the 49ers had mishandled the Lott situation; yes, the readers said by a 1,005-124 margin. This was not the only recent public relations setback for San Francisco. Owner Eddie DeBartolo was nearly pilloried two months ago for trying to change the team logo. (He quickly reversed field on that one.)
Purely from a football standpoint, though, the 49ers did the right thing in letting Lott and Craig go. Lott missed 10 games to injury over the past two seasons, and he will be 32 by the time he plays his first down with the Raiders, while Craig is 30 and fading. The 49ers have learned something from the great Steelers of the early 1980s, who stayed with their aging defense far too long. Says DeBartolo, "We wanted Roger and Ronnie back, but not for more than a year. There's no way you stay competitive in this league without staying young. You just can't keep people beyond their years. I'm so attached to the players, if I made the personnel decisions, nobody would ever leave. But we're committed to turning the team over."
And what about the most famous 49er, quarterback Joe Montana? He turns 35 in June, and his successor, Steve Young, is champing at the bit to leave San Francisco. Maybe not this year, but next year for sure, the 49ers will have to make the kind of decision about Montana that they made about Craig and Lott. Should they pay homage to the past, or should they plan for the future?
To the Rescue
A 173-member team helps a caver see the light
In pain from a broken leg, cave explorer Emily Davis Mobley looked up from her stretcher on the morning of April 1 and said, "Listen, if you have a choice between trashing [something pretty] and making me uncomfortable, make me uncomfortable."
The veteran caver was addressing the first of many rescuers who over the course of four days last week carried her 1,000 feet up and 1.45 miles out of New Mexico's Lechuguilla Cave. Mobley's retrieval from the country's deepest—and possibly most fragile—cavern required the concerted efforts of 173 expert volunteers and became one of the most difficult underground rescues ever accomplished.
Since 1986, when some of Lechuguilla's passages were discovered, experienced cavers have been drawn to Lechuguilla, which lies about four miles from its famous neighbor, Carlsbad Caverns. In barely five years of exploration, the cave has yielded 55 miles of tortuous passages, making it at least the nation's fourth longest. Countless unexplored passages remain, many of a geologic beauty that lures cavers on.
Mobley's plight began 12 hours after she entered Lechuguilla on the afternoon of March 30. She and four others were mapping unexplored passages in the Reason Room, an irregular chamber 100 feet wide, when an 80-pound boulder popped loose without warning and hit her left leg.