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September 11, 1998

WEST / An Ode to Billy Joe That You Wouldn't Expect

Billy Joe Tolliver will fit in nicely with the worst group of NFL quarterbacks in New Orleans, replacing an injured Billy Joe Hobert. Hobert's loss is catastrophic. The Saints rank last in rushing after one week and Hobert gained 13 of the team's 35 yards on the ground.

Washington defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield will play against his former team, the 49ers, Monday night and he's thankful he's going against left guard Ray Brown rather than right guard Kevin Gogan. "One thing about Ray Brown is, I know he's not going to try to cut me or cheap-shot me or do anything illegal like that. I know Gogan is, but Ray won't."

With General Manager Bill Polian's departure to run the Colts, Coach Dom Capers now performs both duties in Carolina, and one of his first personnel decisions appears to have backfired. Capers released deep snapper Mark Rodenhauser, who comes cheaper and with the ability to play more positions. But in his first game, Jerry Jensen snapped the ball over the punter's head for a safety and another poor snap resulted in blocked punt. Rodenhauser made one bad snap in three years, and was quickly grabbed by Pittsburgh after the Panthers set him free.

CENTRAL / Why It's Not Easy to Get Behind Mitchell

The Lions didn't score a touchdown in the first half against Green Bay. Detroit was outscored in the first quarter last season, 100-35. The Lions scored first in only three of their 16 games. That's going to happen when you have Scott Mitchell at quarterback.

Figure this one out: Quarterback Rick Mirer, released by Chicago for being a flop, got an $800,000 signing bonus to play for Green Bay. "We're scratching an itch," Packer General Manager Ron Wolf said. "Does everybody understand that? We have a belief in Mirer."

It looks as if the Packers have to score only two touchdowns against the Buccaneers this week. In the last 12 meetings of the teams, the Buccaneers have averaged little more than a touchdown a game.

After rookie Randy Moss caught four passes for 95 yards, two of them for touchdowns, Viking teammate Robert Smith said he expects Moss to wind up in the Hall of Fame. "I'm serious," he said. "I mean, you could see it after the first day of practice: There is nothing he can't do."

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp is 20 pounds heavier this season, and opened ineffectively against the Vikings. "He thinks he can play well at that weight, so we'll see," Coach Tony Dungy said.

EAST / Split Decision Leaves Davis in Limbo for Now

Cowboy wide receiver Billy Davis likes to celebrate touchdown catches by doing the splits. Not any more. Davis nearly dislocated a finger last week after scoring against Arizona, hitting the artificial turf faster than he had anticipated and catching himself with his hands. "I'm definitely not doing that anymore," Davis said. "I'm working on something new." You have to figure it's tough to top the NFL's best hot dogs: Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders.

Cardinal defensive lineman Eric Swann has been tossed out of two of his last three games for fighting. "The only way to take Eric Swann out of the game, they think, is to get me rattled or do something to cause me to retaliate that will put me out of the game," said Swann. And knowing that, he still gets kicked out.

The Giants caught a huge break because the Colts lost their cool. Indianapolis cornerback Carlton Gray criticized team management and was cut, and the Giants need someone badly to fill in for an injured Jason Sehorn. They have him now in Gray.

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