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The Inside Track | Q&A WITH JOHN ELWAY

Former Bronco Trying to Conquer New Arena

February 14, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Denver icon John Elway, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, is in his first season as the owner of the Colorado Crush, an expansion team in the Arena Football League.

Elway's 0-2 team drew consecutive sellouts in its first two games and is preparing for Sunday's game against the unbeaten Avengers in Denver. This week, Elway talked about the future of the NFL in Los Angeles, his move from the field to the owners' box and life away from the game.

Question: Do you see a day when the NFL returns to Los Angeles?

Answer: I think there is no question. At some point, it will be back in L.A. The NFL wants to be in L.A. and L.A. is too great of a city not to have an NFL team. It has everything else. I don't know when or how, but it will be back.

Q: Would you like to be part of an L.A. franchise if it happens?

A: I enjoyed L.A. and enjoyed living out there when I went to high school. It's something I would listen to. I didn't get into the Arena league to get the experience for the NFL, but like the last two times there have been things going on out there, I definitely would be interested in talking about it.

Q: How did you get involved in the Arena Football League? Did [co-owners] Stan Kroenke and Pat Bowlen play a role?

A: We had been looking at the Arena league for a few years. Mr. Kroenke came to me after he closed the deal on the Pepsi Center and the Avalanche and Nuggets, and was wondering if, down the line, I would be interested in an Arena league team. Mr. Bowlen came to me after that.

Q: What do you like about Arena football? And what are some of the league's problems?

A: I like the fact that it's affordable. People can take their families and kids to the games. It doesn't cost them an arm and a leg. In Denver, we've had a ton of families coming, and they are getting a chance to participate and enjoy the games and get the full value from the experience.

As for problems, I haven't been in it long enough. I'm sure at the end of the year I'll have some suggestions.

Q: You've said that you attend your team's practices on a daily basis. How involved are you when you're there?

A: I'm mostly watching the players. I'm not involved in play calling or anything like that, but I can help the coaches. A lot of players have not been in a situation where they have experienced what I was fortunate to experience with the Broncos. You have to teach players how to practice and what you do to be good and perform well week in and week out. So I can make suggestions there.

Q: Do you feel helpless sitting in the owners' box? That you can't make the play that needs to be made on the field?

A: I'm past that. When I retired four years ago, it was time. There was not the desire for me to be down around the field. The main thing is you want to win games, whether you're a player or an owner. You just want to win. I'm taking the losses just as bad as I did when I was a player.

Q: When Bill Parcells was hired by the Dallas Cowboys, Troy Aikman said he might consider playing again if Parcells showed up at his doorstep and asked him to return. Would you feel the same way if Mike Shanahan or another coach came knocking?

A: Troy is a lot younger than I am. [Aikman is 36, Elway 42.] He walked away because of the concussions he had suffered, but I always told myself that I thought he might come back. Not me.

Q: How are you doing physically? Any major problems from having played for so long?

A: I think I'm in pretty good shape. Not too many problems. I have a bad knee, but other than that, no repercussions.

Q: You've said you fell in love with playing football because your father was a coach and, as a high school student in Southern California, kids just gravitated toward the game. Why aren't more kids playing football today?

A: One of the reasons is that it's kind of slow for them. If anything, that's one thing the Arena league can do -- get more kids interested in playing because there is lots of action and a lot going on.

Q: What's your golf handicap?

A: Plus 2.

Q: Any desire to play golf professionally, maybe on the senior tour?

A: I hope I make it to 50. I played in about 12 celebrity pro tournaments at one point in time. It's been real difficult because of all the different things I have going on. I wouldn't want to be away from my kids. It could be something down the road. You never know.

Q: Did you see Tommy Maddox bring the Pittsburgh Steelers back against Cleveland? If so, what were you thinking when your former understudy was doing the things you used to do?

A: I was just happy for him because I know he worked his tail off to get back to the NFL. I was impressed. You could tell the amount of maturity he had developed since the last time he was in Denver. I was impressed because he was a guy who played here, but I was more impressed with the road he traveled to get back.

Q: You've gone through some tough times on a personal level in the last few years with the deaths of your father and sister and other situations. How have those experiences affected you?

A: It definitely gives you a different perspective. People have the perception that [athletes] are not human and not affected by the same emotions. You have to take the bad with the good, and I have had a lot of good things in my life. A lot of times you go through the tough times and it makes you stronger. You battle through it because you know that it will get better.

Q: Tim Salmon of the Angels recently said that shortly after the World Series, a wealthy family in Florida offered him $15,000 to attend a bar mitzvah. Salmon said he could not make it because of another commitment, but he said he thought that you and Julius Erving also were invited. Did you attend? Do you get a lot of those kinds of invitations?

A: I was invited, but I couldn't make my schedule work. I never had a request like that before. I doubt that I ever will again.

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