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PRO FOOTBALL SPOTLIGHT

November 04, 1996

IT WAS A GOOD TRADE. REALLY

Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis insisted there was nothing personal between him and Ram Coach Rich Brooks, but the way he ran--and the way he reacted--said otherwise.

The former Ram rushed for 129 yards in 19 carries against his old team.

Bettis slammed the ball down, did a touchdown dance, then flexed his muscles to the fans after his 50-yard breakaway touchdown run made the score 14-0. He also strutted several times following carries that finished near the Ram bench.

"A lot of things were said about me, and I hoped I proved some people wrong," said Bettis, who was held to 637 yards last season in St. Louis as his playing time dropped following a contract holdout that agitated Brooks.

"I think I proved I can make a difference in a team. I never got a chance to show the St. Louis fans what I could do, and I felt bad about that, and I wanted to show them," Bettis said.

The Rams traded Bettis to Pittsburgh for the immortal tight end Ernie Cornwell and a fourth-round pick in next year's draft.

Cornwell has caught all of six passes this season. However, he does do a fine, fine job making sure the bench isn't stolen during a game.

PLUS, THEY MISSED A PRETTY GOOD GAME

The officials were involved in several questionable plays during New England's 42-23 victory over Miami at Foxboro, Mass., with fumble calls proving to be a special problem.

Karim Abdul-Jabbar was called for a fumble that appeared to be caused by the ground, setting up New England's go-ahead touchdown.

Later, New England's Curtis Martin apparently lost the ball before crossing the goal line, but it was ruled a touchdown.

On another play, Patriot cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock stripped the ball from Abdul-Jabbar, but he was ruled down.

Also, New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe's overhand lateral that hit the ground was ruled an incomplete pass, a close, but incorrect call.

There was also at least one phantom pass interference penalty. And, to top it all off, on Ben Coates' 84-yard touchdown rumble, he got an inadvertent downfield block from an official.

HE'S REALLY GOOD DURING THE DROP DRILL

The rookie season of St. Louis Ram quarterback Tony Banks has been an unsettling mixture of big plays and bobbles.

When Coach Rich Brooks demoted sore-elbowed Steve Walsh to third string and handed his second-round draft pick the job in mid-September, he expected some mistakes. Never this many.

In seven games, five of them starts, the NFL's only rookie starter at quarterback has fumbled 16 times, losing eight of them. He is only two fumbles shy of the NFL record shared by Dave Krieg and Warren Moon. Krieg fumbled 18 times with Seattle in 1989 and Moon 18 times with Houston in 1990.

If Banks had to grade himself on the first half of the year it wouldn't be pretty.

"I'm what, 1-5?" he said. "I don't know, that sounds like a D or an F to me."

THEY CAN SLEEP UNDER A LAMP TO STAY WARM

There was a sea of gold every time the Green Bay Packers did anything good Sunday, thanks to the newest gimmick at Lambeau Field--gold "Title Towels," which are similar to the "terrible towels" waved in Pittsburgh. A Baraboo, Wis., company made the towels from tons of cloth damaged in a 1993 flood.

Yeah, that beats making clothing for oh, I don't know, homeless children, or something like that.

HOWIE LONG, MEET HOWIE MANDEL

Before Buffalo routed Washington, 38-13, Fox television analyst Howie Long had this prediction for the game:

"The Redskins are going to pound the football and beat the living hell out of Bruce Smith on every passing down by using running backs and the tight end."

Missed it by this much.

IT HURTS WHEN YOU DO THAT? DON'T DO THAT

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