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Pro Football Week 9 | IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Collins a Nonentity to Panthers Again

November 02, 1998

Kerry Collins took himself out of the Carolina Panthers' lineup last month. Mike Ditka didn't have the heart to return him to the field Sunday against his former team.

Collins, the first draft pick of the expansion Panthers in 1995, was claimed off waivers by the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 14 after Coach Dom Capers said the quarterback told him his heart was no longer in the game.

Collins stood on the sideline Sunday in a baseball cap with arms folded in his team's 31-17 loss at Ericsson Stadium, where he once led the Panthers to the NFC title game.

The Saints' second-string quarterback only watched as starter Billy Joe Tolliver had an ineffective day against the previously winless Panthers.

Some Panthers still paid Collins respect. Starting quarterback Steve Beuerlein hugged his friend and former teammate at midfield after the game.

"He is a guy who was a part of this family from the beginning and you just can't cut loose with those feelings and emotions," Beuerlein said.

Only a "Good Luck Kerry" placard remained in Collins' locker when reporters entered the Saint locker room, and Ditka wasn't in much of a mood to talk about Collins.

When asked if it crossed his mind to use Collins against the Panthers, the coach said: "I don't have a mind."

Collins was booed when he entered the stadium where he played the last 2 1/2 seasons.

Some fans wore their feelings on their backs. One man walking into the stadium had patched over the final five letters of his No. 12 Collins jersey and replaced it with "Coward." Another woman had "Quitter" on the back of her Collins jersey and an "X" over his number.

With the Panthers holding a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter, fans began a mock chant of "Kerry, Kerry." Security officials also removed a stuffed Collins doll suspended over the wall in one end zone with a noose around its neck.

Rookie offensive tackle Kyle Turley said some of the Saints players joked with Collins before the game in an effort to relax him.

"I was asking him if he had one of those things that the pope has, that bulletproof glass he has when he gets off the airplane and goes to the hotel or out to eat," Turley said. "I was telling everybody not to stand by him because you may get a red dot on your forehead."

WESTBROOK SEEMS TO SEEK OUT TROUBLE

Washington Redskin receiver Michael Westbrook, a troubled player on a troubled team, was benched before Sunday's victory over the New York Giants for missing a practice.

Westbrook also was fined for what Coach Norv Turner called the receiver's "unexcused absence" from Saturday's team meetings and walk-through practice at Redskin Park. A team official said the amount of the fine had not been determined.

Turner, who instructed Westbrook not to attend the game, said he would address the matter again today.

"I'd really rather talk about the guys who played today," the coach said after the 21-14 victory, the Redskins' first of the season.

Westbrook was unhappy with Turner's decision, telling the Washington Post that he "was on the floor vomiting" Saturday morning and couldn't reach anyone at Redskin Park. When he finally did, Westbrook said he was told to turn around and go home.

"I was so sick, I can't tell you," Westbrook said. "I realized I was being late. As soon as I stopped throwing up, I got into the truck and I started calling out there to tell somebody I was on the way.

"I'm trying to change people's perceptions of me. I really want to play. I'm ticked off. I really want to play."

Those are Westbrook's first public comments in more than a year. He had not given an interview since he beat up teammate Stephen Davis on the sideline during a practice before the final exhibition game in August 1997.

Last year, Westbrook's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in overtime against the Giants cost the Redskins vital field position in a game with playoff implications. The game ended in a tie.

MORE RECORDS FOR RICE AND YOUNG

49er quarterback Steve Young and receiver Jerry Rice set more NFL records Sunday at Green Bay.

Young and Rice became the NFL's top quarterback-wide receiver duo when they connected for a 12-yard scoring toss in the first quarter, breaking Dan Marino and Mark Clayton's record of 79 touchdowns.

Young's one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was his 41st rushing touchdown, surpassing the NFL mark for quarterbacks held by Jack Kemp.

THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT SUNDAY'S GAMES

1. Denver's 8-0 start is the best for a defending Super Bowl champion since San Francisco won its first 10 games in 1990.

2. With his three catches, Denver's Shannon Sharpe became the third tight end in NFL history to reach 500. Ozzie Newsome had 662, Kellen Winslow 541.

3. Before scoring two on Sunday, Tampa Bay's offense had not produced a touchdown in 38 first-half possessions.

4. The Saints, who had three sacks, have recorded at least one in 57 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NFL and the longest this decade. The league record is 60 by the Washington Redskins.

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