MORT'S MAILBAG | Aug. 29
Q: Recently, you said that San Francisco 49ers WR Terrell Owens wants a cash-rich organization that isn't in a stadium crisis (Owens can become a free agent in 2004). The team that instantly pops up here, to me, is the Philadelphia Eagles. They're always managing their cap well, and they have the newest stadium. Is there a shot that Philly will land Owens this offseason? -- Mark Green, Philadelphia
MORT -- I wouldn't get my hopes up (by the way, I said that Owens' salary demands require a cash-rich organization). Knowing coach Andy Reid and the value he places on team chemistry, I don't see Owens as a fit. The Eagles also have a formula for not over-investing in players 30-and-over, and Owens will be 30 on Dec. 7 (although WRs can do very well in this age bracket -- see Jerry Rice and Tim Brown with the Oakland Raiders). And they might see Owens also as breaking down their salary-cap discipline. But, hey, we've got a full season to play before we worry about that, right?
|Where will Terrell Owens be catching passes in 2004? Stay tuned.|
Q: AFC East teams will probably beat each other up this year and prevent any one team from going deep in the playoffs. Do you think the Miami Dolphins can overcome late-season letdowns or will the Buffalo Bills have what it takes to win the division? Also, the QB situation with the New York Jets hurts them, and I think the New England Patriots have serious line problems. -- Las Vegas, Nevada
MORT -- I don't think this is about Miami's late-season letdowns. They're either going to be good enough or they're not. The division is tough, but what's new about that? I believe the Bills are for real and capable of winning the division. I disagree with you on New England -- the Patriots may be the team to beat. I think the Dolphins should be right in the mix, but it's out of line to label Miami as a lock favorite in the AFC East. They have some great players, some good ones, and some issues ... like most of the good teams in this league.
Q: Steve Tasker is on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-Time NFL Team, is a seven-time Pro Bowler, was the MVP of a Pro Bowl and played in four Super Bowls. Should he be elected to the HOF? -- John, Springfield, Ohio
MORT -- I lean in favor of the idea that Tasker one day should be elected to the Hall of Fame. He was such an integral player on some great Buffalo teams (his overall career spanned 1985-97). And if we are to believe that special teams is one-third of the game, then why shouldn't the greatest (arguably) special teams player of this era be a Hall of Famer? Now, there are still a lot of great every-down players who also contributed to special teams that haven't been elected, so it can be a sensitive issue to those guys. It may take awhile before Tasker becomes a serious candidate, and that's all right. But I say he belongs in there.
Q: Do you really think the Indianapolis Colts can go deep into the playoffs this year? Or do you think they still lack one more big-play receiver? I think the defense is a lot better, but I would have liked them to get another strong LB! -- Mike Gibson, Indiana
MORT -- Well, even though the Colts' 2002 season ended poorly, it did end in the playoffs. I see them as a better team in 2003. The offense should be more productive point-wise with Edgerrin James back in form. In terms of receivers, I think Peyton Manning now has better targets, especially with the addition of rookie TE Dallas Clark. Reggie Wayne will be better, but a sleeper is ex-Raven Brandon Stokley. Of course, there's always Marvin Harrison. The defense has another year of experience. They have some speed, but are they physical enough for a 16-plus-game season?
Q: The injury to Michael Vick brings up some questions about the field in the Georgia Dome. On a similar surface in Seattle last year, the Seahawks lost seven of their players for the season due to injuries. In fact, Seattle's starters missed 20 percent more games than the starters of the second-most injured team (Cincinnati).
I would say that FieldTurf's claim that their surface is safer is a bit premature. In fact, if you looked closely at the TV replay, you saw the rubber and sand infill "splash" up on both sides of Vick's shoe. This leaves a divot on the surface much like a well-hit pitching wedge on natural turf. I've walked on several "infilled" turf fields (FieldTurf and other products) and they are pockmarked with such divots.
Also, the infilled synthetic turf fields are regarded in the industry as "slow tracks." Players like the surfaces because they are softer and less abrasive to play on. But they can't run as fast and lose a bit of quickness on these surfaces. This will make it more difficult for players such as Vick to elude defensive lineman. Teams that depend on speed and quickness are better off on fields that do not have infill mixtures on top of the turf. -- Jim Siegle, Dalton, Georgia
MORT -- Jim, I'm not going to challenge you (yet) on some of your points, but I have not heard any similar claims about the surface. In fact, Seattle's field was voted No. 3 by players as the best (and safest) playing surface in the NFL -- that includes all grass fields.
Also, that thing about being a "slow" surface for a guy like Vick can be challenged. Vick himself said he likes the traction and feels fast on it. But as long as everybody is playing on the same surface, speed is relative. Mike Vick on a slow turf is still going to be three steps faster than some linebacker on the same slow turf. Then again, you are from the carpet capital of the world (Dalton, Ga.), so I have given you this forum!