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PRO FOOTBALL SPOTLIGHT

Step Aside Mr. Blackwell

September 02, 1996

Entering the season, four teams were trumpeting their new uniform designs. A look:

* Baltimore: Purple jerseys with a black raven on each sleeve and the team name at the neck with black pants featuring a right hip patch in the shape of a shield containing a "B" for Baltimore, "R" for Ravens and elements of the Maryland state flag. The helmet is black with two purple streaks. Verdict: The clear winner of the new uniform derby, but it appears the Fruit-Of-The-Loom grape could walk on the field unnoticed.

* Philadelphia: Midnight green replaces Kelly green as the primary color. An outline of an eagle's head adorns the sleeves and the wings on the helmet have been enhanced. Verdict: Midnight green? Kelly green? How about picking some colors to make those 6-foot quarterbacks look taller.

* San Francisco: In celebration of their 50th anniversary, the 49ers' new look features helmets that outline the interlocking "SF" in burgundy rather than red. Verdict: Hey, it must have taken a team of consultants to come up with this innovation. Maybe for their 60th anniversary they can change the shoelaces from white to off-white.

* New Orleans: For their 30th anniversary, the Saints will wear a patch on their shoulders and the jersey and pants will feature the fleur-de-lis. All numbers will be gold. Verdict: If you listen carefully, you can hear crickets.

THEY PLAY FOR PEANUTS

The San Diego Chargers, victorious at Jack Murphy Stadium on Sunday, should appreciate playing at home. They will have logged 41,822 miles in the air traveling to road games by the time the season is over, edging San Francisco (38,614) for most miles covered. The top five are west coast teams, with Oakland (34,256), Seattle (32,812) and Arizona (30,098) rounding it out.

The Seahawks are the only team to travel to all three Florida NFL sites this year, a total of 15,372 miles round-trip.

On the other hand, Carolina will cover a relatively short 9,745 miles, the lowest in the league behind Indianapolis (10,690).

IT'S NOT HOW YOU

START . . . NEVER MIND

Since 1978, when the NFL went to a 16-game schedule, teams that win their opening game are more than twice as likely to make the playoffs than opening game losers:

* Of the 239 teams that won, 126 went to the playoffs (75 won division titles).

* Of the 239 teams that lost, 54 went to the playoffs (26 won division titles).

--Compiled by HOUSTON MITCHELL

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