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Harbaugh Lands, but He's Out for the Count

October 28, 1997|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's what you have probably come to expect from the winless Indianapolis Colts this season: Angry at barbs thrown at him by broadcaster and former Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly, quarterback Jim Harbaugh threw a punch--and instead of popping him in the nose, he missed.

Instead, Kelly's head intercepted the blow.

And as a result, Harbaugh fractured his throwing hand, and will be sidelined without pay.

Harbaugh, until now best known for taking a pounding and rallying the Colts as Captain Comeback, went looking Saturday for Kelly, who was in San Diego preparing to broadcast the game with Indianapolis the next day.

Kelly, a co-host of "Sneak Preview," a local TV show in Buffalo, had called Harbaugh a "baby" several weeks ago and suggested that Harbaugh "overdramatized" his injuries.

Harbaugh, who was not scheduled to play against the Chargers on Sunday after spraining his ankle a week earlier, crashed an NBC production meeting, which had been scheduled for Kelly and several of Harbaugh's teammates, and a confrontation ensued.

"I regret throwing the punch, but I felt I had to do something since my toughness was being questioned," said Harbaugh, who reportedly smacked Kelly in the head. "I regret that I have a crack in one of my bones in my hand."

Harbaugh and Indianapolis team officials declined to reveal blow-by-blow details, and the judge's scoring.

"Jim and I settled it, and came to an understanding," said Harbaugh, while obviously claiming a TKO. "I consider this something personal between Jim Kelly and I." And now millions of football fans across the country.

Harbaugh was in uniform for Sunday's game, but was listed as the No. 3 quarterback. NBC, which prides itself in reporting inside NFL news, neglected to mention Saturday's incident, and the Colts also remained mum.

After a cable network learned of the incident Monday, the Colts announced that Harbaugh will be placed on the non-football injured list and will forfeit his salary until he is cleared to play, which could be as soon as two weeks from now.

Harbaugh, who will lose an estimated $140,000 per week until he is able to play, can live off the $4-million signing bonus he received last year after signing a $13-million contract. He will continue to count on the 53-man roster but will be deactivated each week until he can perform his normal duties, the team said.

Kelly had infuriated Harbaugh after offering some advice on TV to his former Buffalo teammates before their Sept. 21 game with the Colts.

Kelly said the Bills needed to "hit Harbaugh in the mouth," which would rattle him. He also scoffed at Harbaugh's reputation for being "Captain Comeback," and said Harbaugh's five come-from-behind victories as a Colt hardly put him in the same category as Miami's Dan Marino or Denver's John Elway.

No, but he's right there now with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

"It is one of his peers saying something that he took very personal and Jim wanted to visit with him in a professional manner," said Bill Tobin, the Colt director of football operations.

Tobin said Harbaugh had hoped to have Kelly apologize for the remarks or explain them.

"It didn't work that way," Tobin said. "No one anticipated anything like this."

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