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PRO FOOTBALL WEEK 5 | In The Spotlight

Byars Really Catching On with Jets

October 05, 1998

It's impossible to pigeon-hole Keith Byars, which is just the way he wants it.

Byars set an NFL record for receptions by a running back on Sunday in the New York Jets' 20-9 victory over Miami. He had six catches to move past Marcus Allen on the career list with 593.

Not all of those came as a running back, although nobody has an exact figure for the number of catches Byars made as a tight end with Miami and New England. He also played for Philadelphia in his 13-year career before signing with the Jets this season as a free agent.

"I play offense. Fullback, tight end, wide receiver, whatever they need," Byars said. "I think I have done a pretty good job of that."

Byars is one of Coach Bill Parcells' favorite players, a versatile veteran who leads on and off the field. While the Jets have good receiving backs in Leon Johnson and Curtis Martin, and a young fullback in Jerald Sowell, Parcells finds ways to use Byars.

He found lots of ways Sunday as Byars made some key grabs, especially on the Jets' final drive to John Hall's 25-yard field goal that clinched the win.

The six receptions were the most Byars has gotten since Oct. 27, 1996, with the Patriots.

His 71 yards receiving were his most since 1994, when he was with the Dolphins.

CARRIER NOT HAPPY WITH SUSPENSION

Mark Carrier says he doesn't deserve the one-game suspension for his helmet-to-helmet hit that left Tampa Bay's Brice Hunter with a concussion.

"It wasn't as flagrant as it looks," the Detroit Lion safety said on CBS' "NFL Today" show Sunday. "He was above me. I was below him. I was just going to make a tackle. I wasn't going to hit him in the helmet. If I was going to hit him in the helmet, I would've jumped up and hit him,"

The NFL suspended Carrier without pay for Detroit's game at Chicago on Sunday. He appealed the suspension, but NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue upheld it.

Carrier will lose about $25,000.

Carrier's hit, for which no penalty was called, came during the second period of the Lions' 27-6 victory Monday night. The game was delayed about 10 minutes while Hunter was treated on the field.

"Plays happen at the last second," Carrier said. "You have to react to what you see and sometimes things are going to happen. When you slow it down and you break it down and you see and you watch the play of myself and other players, you can literally see there are things being done to prevent injuries, prevent a bad hit or a helmet flying in there."

I KNOW BRUCE SMITH: HE'S NO NOSTRADAMUS

Not many people predicted that Buffalo would upset San Francisco, 26-21, on Sunday, particularly because the Bills entered the game with only one victory in their last 10 games, worst in the league over that span.

One of those who didn't predict it was Buffalo defensive end Bruce Smith. On Wednesday, Smith was asked his thoughts on the 49ers. His response:

"To me, they haven't really missed a beat from the days of [Joe] Montana, when he was in the game. I think they have a fine-tuned automobile.

"They are clicking on all cylinders."

IT'S SURVEY TIME: WRESTLING OR FOOTBALL?

Concession stands at Jet games are selling "Jet World Order" T-shirts. In Jacksonville, it's "Jaguar World Order." Both shirts are based on a popular World Championship Wrestling clique, the "New World Order." Pro wrestling is surging in popularity among NFL players, and players such as Kevin Greene and Reggie White have been featured in matches during wrestling pay-per-views.

Now comes the announcement that ratings for ABC's "Monday Night Football" are down 12% from last year's numbers, leaving many to scratch their heads, pondering how this could happen. Could it be the different time slot? Could it be the poor matchups featured so far this season? Well, those two things play a part, but there is one reason that is overlooked. The show is on opposite two very popular pro wrestling shows, "WCW Monday Nitro" and "WWF Monday Night Raw."

According to the Nielsen ratings, more males ages 12-17 watched the two wrestling shows last Monday than watched "Monday Night Football." Also, wrestling ratings on Monday night are up 8% over last year's numbers.

But perhaps it can be summed up best by using the immortal words of 13-time heavyweight champion Ric Flair: "Whooooooooooooo!"

THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT SUNDAY'S GAMES

1. San Francisco's Jerry Rice came into the game against Buffalo averaging 34.7 yards receiving per game against the Bills, his lowest against any team. Buffalo held Rice to 54 yards.

2. Saint Coach Mike Ditka participated in his 200th game as an NFL head coach. He is 121-79.

3. Dallas' Deion Sanders provided a nice highlight in the victory over Washington with a 71-yard punt return to the end zone, but there were three penalties on the play (two on Dallas, one on Washington) and the return was brought back to the Dallas 35.

4. Atlanta's victory over Carolina was no surprise. The two teams are heading in opposite directions: Carolina has lost 13 of its last 20 games, the Falcons have won nine of 12.

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