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Veterans' Day

Beuerlein, 37, is one of five quarterbacks who are getting new starts today

November 24, 2002|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

All Steve Beuerlein's rowdy friends have settled down.

Actually, lots of them are NFL assistant coaches, their playing careers a fading memory. But Denver quarterback Beuerlein is still plugging along, somehow zinging passes despite a reconstructed elbow and shoulder. He will make his first start in almost two years tonight when the Broncos play host to Indianapolis.

"I don't feel like a rookie," said Beuerlein, 37, who replaces an injured Brian Griese. "I wish I felt like a rookie again. I'm not a thoroughbred by any stretch of the imagination, not that I ever was. But back when I was 24, 25, I was able to rely a little bit more on my athletic ability than I can now. Now, it's basically going to be a knowledge of the game, an understanding of the game and how to get the ball to the other guys and let them do the work."

The Broncos are one of five NFL teams making a quarterback switch today, joining Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The Steelers, Eagles and Broncos are atop their divisions, and the Rams have rebounded from an 0-5 start by winning five consecutive games.

Beuerlein, who has played for six franchises in 16 seasons, made the Pro Bowl as a Carolina Panther in 1999, when he threw for 4,436 yards and 36 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. In fact, in 1999 and 2000, he had better numbers in just about every category than Green Bay's Brett Favre.

"I thought I was going to finish my career with Carolina," said Beuerlein, who was released by then-coach George Seifert after the 2000 season as part of a youth movement yet still lives in Charlotte during the off-season. "That move surprised everyone -- the players, the coaches. No one had a clue but Seifert."

Now, Beuerlein is on his ninth head coach -- he played for Mike Shanahan before, with the Los Angeles Raiders -- and his final NFL city.

"Denver is my last stop," he said. "I've told my wife I'm not going to play anywhere else. I'm beyond the point in my career where I can keep moving around. I've got too much pride for that. If I'm going to play, I'm going to finish my career with Mike in Denver."

At every turn, there are reminders of the generation gap between Beuerlein and some of his teammates. He's a guy who wears jeans and a golf shirt, for instance, and last week saw rookie Clinton Portis boarding the plane wearing a silk outfit with matching silver shirt and pants.

"They were pajamas," the quarterback said. "They were my definition of pajamas. They were pretty sharp threads. [But] I'm more conservative by nature and by age."

Portis wasn't going to take that pajamas crack lying down.

"The stuff I wear now, Steve wore when he first came into the league," he said. "Like in 1973."

A look at today's other quarterback changes:

* Pittsburgh: Kordell Stewart is back to face Cincinnati after Tommy Maddox was knocked out of last Sunday's game with a spinal contusion. Stewart, who made the Pro Bowl last season and finished third in league MVP voting, was benched late in the third game this season and replaced by Maddox.

"If Tommy's not ready to come back, I have to go in there and play," said Stewart, who quietly fumed over the benching but was always supportive of Maddox. "What happens after that is out of my control; but when the opportunity comes for me to step on that football field and play, I have to play. As far as trying to be the guy back on the mountain ... it ain't about that stuff. It's about being ready when the opportunity comes and presents itself and do what we're paid to do -- win games."

This could be Stewart's last hurrah with the Steelers, considering he has one year left on his contract and is due to make $6.3 million in 2003. He wants out of Pittsburgh, where fans are quick to boo him and he feels unappreciated. There's a chance he could wind up in Dallas next season.

* St. Louis: After bursting onto the scene and essentially saving the Rams' season, Marc Bulger will return to his role as Kurt Warner's understudy. Warner, recovered from a broken pinkie on his throwing hand, will step back into the starting lineup at Washington.

A two-time league MVP, Warner got off to a painfully slow start this season, throwing one touchdown pass with eight interceptions in three-plus games. Coach Mike Martz has made it clear there's no quarterback controversy -- the job belongs to Warner -- but watch for Martz to reverse his field if things don't go well against the Redskins.

Because of their 0-5 start, the Rams have left themselves with precious little wiggle room. If they lose more than one more game, their playoff hopes likely will flutter away.

"I'm going to go and give it everything I've got," Warner said. "I still know what I can do on the football field. I'm focused on playing well. I played well for a long time. I don't look at the situation like all of a sudden I'm going to fail, or I'm not going to be able to play football again. I'm just going to do what I do and let the chips fall. I'm not going to play not to fail."

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