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SPORTS WEEKEND | AROUND THE AFC / WEST

This Morris Isn't So Finicky

September 22, 2000|STEVE SPRINGER

Sylvester Morris is a pretty simple guy.

When he stepped onto the team plane for an overnight trip to Tampa Bay during the preseason, the Kansas City Chief rookie receiver had his toothbrush in one pocket, a change of underwear in the other and his playbook in his hand.

"We were only gone for one night," Morris said. "I put everything in my pocket. I didn't feel like carrying no suitcase."

No big deal.

When Morris, a first-round pick from Jackson State, stepped off the field last Sunday after facing the San Diego Chargers, he had three touchdown catches against the Chargers.

Still no big deal.

"It's just football," Morris said. "I've been catching footballs since I was a little kid."

Like everyone else in silver and black, Raider receiver Tim Brown is perplexed by his team's stumbling starts.

Oakland trailed, 17-0, in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos on Sunday before battling back to tie the score, 24-24, by halftime, only to go on and lose, 33-24. A week earlier, the Raiders trailed the Indianapolis Colts, 24-7, before coming back to score 24 third-quarter points and eventually win, 38-31.

"You can [understand] it on the road," Brown said, "but at home?"

Denver backup quarterback Gus Frerotte says he is pretending that he will be the starter this week in case Brian Griese (torn cartilage in his throwing shoulder) can't play.

The Broncos hope Frerotte is only pretending.

CENTRAL / It's an Honest Mistake

Get this man a CAT scan: Most if not all of the football experts are surprised to see the Cleveland Browns with a 2-1 record in their second year of existence.

Not Cleveland safety Corey Fuller.

"Honestly, we feel like we should be 3-0," he said.

In the Monday night game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars will welcome back running back Fred Taylor, out since the second preseason game because of a knee injury.

Without him, the Jaguars are averaging 2.7 yards a carry.

The Cincinnati Bengals were able to get by with only seven men near the line of scrimmage last week in holding Jacksonville to 13 points.

"I told [Taylor], 'We've got to have you back, even if you throw on a uniform and slide up in the offense,' " receiver Jimmy Smith said. "Just his presence is a big help to us on offense. If I've got [number] 28 in the backfield, I know they can't put two and three guys on me every play. At least I'll have a chance to get single coverage."

Poor Jimmy. Without Taylor in there, Smith has only managed to make 27 catches, best in the NFL.

Cincinnati receiver Peter Warrick is averaging 19.4 yards a catch, the highest figure among rookies. He's even more effective on third downs, averaging 27 yards.

EAST / A Possible Routine Review

Miami Dolphin defenders Sam Madison, Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor love to lead their teammates in dancing, hand-waving, helmet-banging celebrations between plays and during timeouts.

"It's looks a lot like a college team," Taylor said. "We look kind of childish and stupid out there when we watch the film on Monday."

Better hope NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue doesn't watch that film. He loves nothing better than to crack down on those who even hint at having fun. Teams usually stay out of the news on their open week. The Buffalo Bills made it into the headlines this off week with the announcement by Coach Wade Phillips that he is removing running back Antowain Smith from the starting lineup and replacing him with Jonathan Linton, who was limited to special-teams play while recovering from a rib injury.

"Everybody wants to make it derogatory toward Antowain Smith," Phillips said. "But that's not the case."

It is the case that Buffalo ranks 24th in the NFL in average rushing yards a game, that the team's leading rusher is quarterback Rob Johnson with 109 yards in 16 carries and that Smith, with 72 yards in 34 carries, is third on the team behind Shawn Bryson.

The last time the Colts were on Monday Night Football was 1997. They lost to the Bills that night, Indianapolis' seventh consecutive defeat in a dismal streak that would stretch to 11 games.

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