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Patron Saint Keeps Losing His Head

November 06, 2001|Sam Farmer

Kyle Turley isn't just an outstanding right tackle for the New Orleans Saints. He's a patron of the arts, a dedicated surfer and, when angered, an out-of-control maniac.

Turley cost his team the chance to tie or beat the New York Jets on Sunday by drawing a pivotal 15-yard penalty when he ripped the helmet off safety Damien Robinson and flung it downfield, then made an obscene gesture.

The incident happened in the game's final minute, when the Saints--trailing, 16-9--had reached the New York six. On second and three, quarterback Aaron Brooks ran for a yard and Robinson grabbed his facemask.

Robinson said he stopped pulling when he heard Brooks scream. Turley said the safety showed no such mercy.

"I came up on the play and the guy started twisting Aaron's head back and he started screaming," he said. "I've never been placed in a situation like that before, where I see my quarterback getting his head turned around like the exorcist."

Turley jumped into the pile, lost his own helmet, and pried Robinson's loose. The lineman stood and hurled it downfield, looking as if he might have done the same if Robinson's head were still in it.

"I felt like Turley was trying to break my neck," Robinson said.

Officials called offsetting personal-foul penalties, ejected Turley, and moved the Saints back to the 20, effectively ending the scoring threat.

Turley, who has been fined for two prior offenses, will be fined by both the league and the Saints. But in many respects, he got off easy.

"Driving home last night I was thinking about cutting him," said Coach Jim Haslett, who often lost his cool as a player. "Last night, laying in bed, I thought about suspending him. I didn't see the whole incident on the field. Then I saw it on TV, where Damien Robinson was trying to pull Aaron's head off. Then I talked to Aaron about it, and Aaron said he thought he broke his neck. So I can understand why Kyle did it to that point."

Turley was gone when reporters arrived in the locker room after the game, but he did call Haslett at home shortly after midnight. He spoke to his coach and General Manager Randy Mueller several times Monday.

"You either conform to the rules, and have an understanding of what's going on out there, or get a new job," Haslett said. "He needs to control his anger. He thought he was protecting the quarterback, but he went too far and it hurts the football team."

*

When he returned an interception in overtime to beat San Francisco, Chicago safety Mike Brown ran to the back of the end zone, struck a few poses for fans, and happily granted an interview to the mob of reporters encircling him.

Brown had a different strategy Sunday when, amazingly, he pulled off the feat again with an overtime interception return for a touchdown against Cleveland. This time, he made a beeline up the locker-room tunnel.

"I wanted to come in and celebrate with my teammates," he said. "Last week I didn't get the chance to do that. It must be destiny for that to happen two games in a row. I was in the right spot again. I guess it was just luck."

The back-page headline in the Chicago Sun-Times read: "Deja Two: The Immaculate Deflection."

*

Former UCLA receiver Freddie Mitchell, Philadelphia's first-round pick, is finally getting some significant playing time. He caught four passes for 62 yards in a 21-7 victory over Arizona. Two of those catches were for first downs, and he took a huge hit on one over-the-middle beauty.

Typically, he was less than modest about his performance.

"A couple more games," he said Monday, "and I think I can dominate."

Mitchell might get a chance to prove it. He moved up to No. 3 on the depth chart after Na Brown dropped passes in three consecutive games.

Eagle Coach Andy Reid said he's bringing Mitchell along slowly, much the way he did with quarterback Donovan McNabb as a rookie.

"We've gradually fed Freddie different situations, different routes," he said. "He's becoming confident with that. Is he fully developed into the whole package right now? No. He will with time.... We'll just keep giving him a little bit more every week until he has a full grasp of it."

*

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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