Thoughts on the way down ... and out
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

"Low man wins ... (until he gets old)."
-- R-Dub's NFL Proverb No. 98

Jason Belser
Jason Belser reverts to a less technical form of stopping LaDainian Tomlinson.
Like most, the NFL is a young man's game. Take Jason Belser. You can't out-technique Belser, a K.C. Chiefs' safety. He's 32, an 11-year vet out of Oklahoma, most of his NFL career put in with the Colts. He's a good, strong, formful tackler. He has pedigree. His dad played for the Chiefs. He's solid. He could effectively coach the game one day, if he wanted to, and he might want to.

Belser knows to be lower than the lowest when tackling or blocking. People who talk League are decrying a lack of tackling, formful or otherwise, these days. They are not giving youth and skill its proper due. You can't win with only youth and skill, but you sure can't win without them. For all his enviable traits, Jason Belser is part of the reason the Chiefs can stop nobody. He should be a backup, a locker room guru, the football equivalent of Shawon Dunston. He's surviving on instinct and 11 years of intelligence. Age and its decline of footspeed betrays him. The end is near.

Two weeks ago, LaDainian Tomlinson broke through a hole; there was Belser, in position, low, having read action, ready to tackle. But LT gave him a young man's shake, left-right, quicker than you can think it. Belser didn't even touch him. His muscle mass wouldn't obey the second command in the same millisecond. Touchdown, LT. Long walk back to bench, long day's journey into good night, Belser.

Last Sunday, Shannon Sharpe set an NFL tight end record for receiving yards (214 on 12 catches), because Belser and a rookie were the Chiefs' starting safeties, injuries having decimated the K.C. secondary. Sharpe broke deep on a post. Belser got there, but for all his pedigree, technique, experience, professionalism and desire, he raced 84 in a dead sprint over 60 yards.

Belser lost ground. To a tight end. An old tight end.

And yet, Jason Belser might do a great job, coaching Baylor.

Time marches on. And right over you. Even over good men. In their honor, the Week 7 NFL Uncensored Thought Balloons will be followed by a solemn solo trumpet rendition of "Taps":

Plaxico Burress, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers -- "Got me six cell phones. All of 'em turned on. I talk on two or three of 'em at once sometimes. Yeah, really. Honeys like that. Plexi got da hook up!"

NBA fan
NBA fan freak show contests have seen better days.
Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers -- "Plaxico does have six cell phones. Sick. As long as Maddox calls my number, I'm cool."

Tony Dungy, coach, Indianapolis Colts -- "Brooks, Sapp, Ronde, Lynch -- my exes, they look good to me. See them out with their new flame, Gruden, and he looks good ... What do you get when you fall in love? You get enough germs to catch pneumonia. And if you do, they'll never phone ya, I'll ... never fall in love again."

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers -- "I bust thru. I seen a wide open hole. I smelt the end zone ... (later) I toted 39 carries? I catch five balls? I got hit how many times? (next day) I hurt thru. And thru. I seen a bye week. I smelt the whirlpool."

Al Davis, managing general partner, Oakland Raiders -- "Marty's 19-3 against us. %#&$! Did you see that guy? Did you see what he did to us? Does he have our number or what? Ah, just thin, baby."

Joe Horn
Joe Horn toots the Saints' horn along with Deuce McCallister, right.
Joe Horn, WR, New Orleans Saints -- "We got more weapons than ATF. Got Deuce. Got Donte, who didn't even kick in this week. We got No. 2. We got me. Could'a had 600 yards. Naw, we don't need no game balls. Or no Sharpies. T.O., he good. But he ain't no Joe."

Terrell Owens, WR, San Francisco 49ers -- "No, I did not see no Detroit tight end (Ricks) acting like he was signing a ball before giving it to a fan in Minnesota the day before I made up that move in Seattle. T.O. made that up. See? Besides, (Ricks) was acting. I really did it. Oops, maybe I should've caught that ball instead of talking to myself. You think? We lost? New Orleans has lots of black guys. That's why. Plus, they didn't go to me more."

Shannon Sharpe, TE, Denver Broncos -- (horse whinneys)

Brian Griese, QB, Denver Broncos -- (looking at the whinnying Shannon Sharpe, at full gallop) "So ... that's a Bronco ... "

The Kansas City Chiefs' D (if you can call it that), featuring Dick Vermeil, with Ludacris -- "We are terrible defensively. I wish I could say I'd seen worse. But I haven't. We just put Griese in the Pro Bowl. And Clinton Portis. And Curtis Conway. And Tomlinson. We may put me in the nut house."

Nate Clements
Playing Miami's Ray Lucas was a dream come true for Nate Clements.
Nate Clements, DB, Buffalo Bills -- "Read Lucas' eyes. He's, he's throwing it right to me! ... Here come another one! Nate Clements, come on down! Gimme some, dog! Mama gotta roll over tonight! Here come another one! I like this Lucas boy. That's three! That's four -- oh, dropped it! No! Don't wake me up!"

Ray Lucas, QB, Miami Dolphins -- "I sucked. I was garbage. Crapola. I'm angst-ridden ... a bald Hamlet, dipped in car-mel."

Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons -- "Don't think ... play ... "

Carolina Panthers' 11 on D, featuring Julius Peppers -- (while watching Vick's vapor trail disappear in tunnel) "Good ... God!"

Tom Coughlin, coach, Jacksonville Jaguars -- "... That's Tom ... "

Todd Heap, TE, Baltimore Ravens -- "College coach called me, 'Golden Retriever.' Pro coach calls me, 'Stormin' Mormon.' So why won't Mary Jane call me back? What? There is no Mary Jane? There's only Kirsten Dunst? I'll settle. O Kirsten won't ya Heap?"

Chucky Gruden, coach, Tampa Bay Bucs -- "... what is FUBU?"

Jon Runyan, OL, Philadelphia Eagles -- "Oooo, Warren Sapp. Oooo, I'm so scared. Ha, ha, ha! Let's go right at 'em. Nothing's changed. Why would it? I still kick butt up and down their D-line."

Matt Millen, GM, Detroit Lions -- "Yeah, I called him a devout coward. Who? Never mind. He knows. His initials are Scotty Anderson, wide deceiver. Had to call somebody a coward. If it'll light a fire under their tails, all of 'em are ... We what? We actually won? ... You know, this week, they're all cowards."

Anonymous (psst, it's Luther Elliss, DL, Detroit Lions) -- "Spike wasn't talking about me. I know Spike wasn't calling me a coward ... but I better hit A-Train extra hard, just in case."

Kelvin Pritchett, Anthony Thomas, Luther Eliss
Kelvin Pritchett, left, recovers the ball after an Anthony Thomas fumble caused by Luther Eliss, right.
Anthony Thomas, RB, Chicago Bears -- "Didn't feel like cowards when they were pounding me. I fumbled. Twice. Let's see you hold on to it when a couple of DTs going three bills apiece who think the boss has called 'em cowards spike your elbow and your spine with their helmets at ramming speed. Oh, yeah, coach, you'd secure the ball. Riiiight. Secure this. Better put dat blown gasket back in your head. You'll need me soon. Like, this week."

David Carr, QB, Houston Texans -- "Sacked nine more times? What's that, 40 sacks on me in less than half a season? Oh my aching back! Say to the press your teammates are trying best they can. Stay lovable. But with your eyes ask, 'Would youse guys mind keeping these people out of my earhole?!?'"

Ryan Tucker, OL, Cleveland Browns -- "We're Uerkelesque at RB. But in the Halloween candy corn jerseys, maybe nobody notices?"

Trent Dilfer, QB, Seattle Seahawks -- "You know Seattle's real green. And so are my extremities. Please, Mike. Draft a QB. So I can graduate to backup duty. I want to get my natural color back."

Grant Wistrom, DE, St. Louis Rams -- "Best thing about playing for the Rams is that I don't have to tackle Marshall Faulk. He's a bit of an egomaniac, but I would be too, if I could do that. That's 116 TDs. Wait, make it 117 -- no, that's 118 right there, oh, 119, no, try 120. Oh, I'm getting dizzy, and I'm on his team."

Brett Favre, LaVar Arrington, Jeremiah Trotter
Jeremiah Trotter, right, and LaVar Arrington make an impact on Brett Favre.
Marvin Lewis, defensive coordinator, Washington Redskins -- "Trotter and Armstead no longer impact. Can still play, some, but they are not all that. Arrington, can't give him too much to recall. When he hesitates, that kills his edge, being quick, using his legs. This is going to take time. Time I may not have. Vick me, baby."

Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay Packers -- "Arrington made a wish before he grabbed my legs. That the replay? Ugly. Worse thing is, idleness. Keep pain-killers off me. Problem is ... I'm in pain!"

David Boston, WR, Arizona Cardinals -- "Under the radar? We're pre-radar. Best team start since '88. Best guns since Ah'nold in 'Predator.' Watch me flex. Watch what happens to this walnut."

Emmitt Smith, RB, Dallas Cowboys -- "What do I need now, 92 yards to catch Walter? With the Seahawks and Santa Claus comin' to town, this feels like it. After that, you can have it, Jer. As I understand it, there'a hole on HBO's 'Inside the NFL' now."

Cris Carter
Cris Carter goes from premium TV to premium salary.
Cris Carter, WR, HBO/Miami Dolphins -- "Ego? Try paycheck. I miss being with the guys, but that sounds funny, don't it? The guys on the HBO set aren't guys too? So what exactly did I miss? Being sore? Taking mass showers? No. It's the check. There's a slight difference in compensation between HBO rookie and NFL vet."

Randy Moss, WR, Minnesota Vikings -- "Cris came back. But he didn't want to come back here. Wonder why not? Jim Mora? Who-da? What-da? He said what? Well, if they said he could coach the Vikings tomorrow, would he turn it down? He would? ... Oh."

Chad Pennington, QB, New York Jets -- "Here comes Herm. He's smiling like he stole something. I was 24-for-29 for 329 yards. Why is Herm carrying a saddle? Why is he throwing it over my back?"

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."



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