It's a Marvelous time of the year
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

"The only really important play is the next play."
-- R-Dub's NFL Proverb No. 5

I love this time of year, from Week 10 of the NFL season on. Things have sorted themselves out. You can discuss, theorize, analyze -- in other words, get ready to bet -- with authority.

Marvin Harrison
When Marvin Harrison scores, you often don't see a defender in the frame.
You see coaching nuances, some of their tendencies and yips.

You see the optimum capabilities and funks of the gladiators.

You read the injury list as if it were the Dead Sea Scrolls

You see the frauds (next week we'll ID some) and unsung gamers. Take Marvelous Marvin Harrison. T.O., Keyshawn, Moss, Plaxico Burress get the pub, but Marvin is killer.

Ask Charles Woodson, who often serves as Our Oracle for the NFL Close Encounters, who's the best receiver. Marvin is the first name off Wood's lips. But because Marvin doesn't run his yap, do the hully-gully or make diva moves after he scores, you lump him in with the proles. Mistake.

Marvelous was the first man to put Deion in the salt shaker, with a stop-go move that made me think, "Damn, time for D to retire."

Not to mention what he did to corner Troy Vincent and safety Brian Dawkins, two of the best in the business, last Sunday in the Colts' unexpected 35-13 blowout of the Eaglets. All it took was one RB -- in this case, James Mungro -- to run with authority for Peyt Manning to dip deeply into his staggeringly good run-action/pass-action fakes and make like David Copperfield. Harrison is the only real threat to even a few of Rice's Himalayan career records.

How can you tell? Look at the separation he gets. He doesn't just beat DBs. He buries them, leave them in puddles, heaps. They are not even in the frame half the time when he goes scampering across the goal line like Death was after him (which it is, by the way).

T.O. might beat a guy going vertical, jumping over him, maybe even the crossbar too, like a ticked-off General Thade, or clicking his heels up high, like Diana Ross' Dorothy in "The Wiz," a similar, toothy, star-stricken look on his face, as if to say, "You're looking at me! I never thought anyone would. ... But now I'm a huge star! Love me!" But still, some DB is right there with him, grumbling; T.O.'s always covered. Marv leaves people.

Julian Peterson
Julian Peterson made Tony Gonzalez disappear.
We're finding out about Julian Peterson, a flex LB who covered the TE of Life, Tony Gonzalez, man-for-man, held him to one ball for six punk yards. Julian will also stove in runs, sifting through lineman, then plucking out the back, rolling him up into a ball and tossing him backward into the recycling bin. He'll also knock your jock in your watchpocket for you, or yank RBs 40 yards downfield like it's nothing.

Green Bay has something special in Ahman Green, Donald Driver, New Orleans in LeChuck Bentley, Philly in Jon Runyan, a model of dominating malevolence, even though he plays OT.

The Rams? Mmmmm, No. Warner coming back slows their roll -- now we see, with QB Bulger's numbers, that it's what's around the Rams QB as much as it is the Rams QB. It's about to turn into an HBO original programming episode in St. Loo, can't say yet if it's "The Sopranos" or "Sex in the City." Is Bulger Tony and Warner Ralph, or is it the other way around? Watch and see. That little happy face Warner mounts on the sideline after each Bulger score is not fooling me. I knew Joe Montana. At least he was honest in the way he despised Steve Young.

And Field Marshall Faulk just got a lot older, in one week. He rolled an ankle, but it's more than that. It's his body. Look at it. He's growing handles. Field Marshall Faulk is about to "jump the shark," as they say. Not this week or next week, but by next season. The game moves fast. It never goes backward.

The AFC? If I told all, I wouldn't retain my aura of mystery. Why don't you come up and see me sometime? Like next week? Maybe then we'll talk about it, if you bring money. Depends on you, and whether or not you get even a few disgusted grunts from Week 10 Thought Balloons, taken from inside the heads of NFL stars.

(Most of them have already been lobotomized. Or can't you tell?)

Rich Gannon
Rich Gannon played a near-perfect game Monday night.
Rich Gannon, QB, Oakland Raiders: "I know I said I'd never use Grecian Formula or Just For Men, but this grey's getting kinda hectic up in headquarters. Why do they call me a tyrant? No. I'm an accurate tyrant, people. You need to be hollered at. You want to be hollered at. You can't handle the truth! You can? OK then, what was I, 34-for-38? And was not one ball dropped by Manos de Piedra Wheatley? And did not a ref wrongly call Charlie Garner out of bounds on another ball? That's what I thought ..."

Clinton Portis, RB, Denver Broncos: "See my new end-zone dance? I know we lost 34-10, but, did you see my new end-zone dance? I worked on it. Can you tell? Mama could. She liked it."

Steve Spurrier, coach, Washington Redskins: "They say that was Jacksonville's biggest crowd this season. 66,666 people had signs calling me Evil Genius. One said, 'Make Him So Mad He Throws His Visor.' Hurt me when Fred Taylor made that thoat-slash move after he scored. Did you know Jacksonville's actually in Georgia?"

Mark Brunell, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars: "Now you see how hard it is, don't you, Mr. Golden Britches, Mr. Son of God Spurrier? Last thing we need is another coach who thinks he's God's gift to football. Oh, hi, coach Coughlin. Me? I didn't say anything. Except how much I respect you. You're what Lombardi must have been like ... (Coughlin walks away smiling) Yeah, sure you are, El Dictator. Tell you what, just get me into the playoffs. Me, Jimmy and Fred will do the rest. Guess what else, coach? You don't get hit, though I wish you did. It might make you appreciate a diagnosis more."

Matt Millen, GM, Detroit Lions: "Scouts? You mean ... I'm supposed to have scouts? Full-time, you mean? Really?"

Brett Favre
Brett Favre can plan on getting a little R&R in December.
Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay Packers: "I never clinched a division before Thanksgiving before. Sounds like fun. Turkey leg, anyone? Lion tail, anyone? I like the dark meat myself. I need somebody to head butt. You. Yeah, you. Paper boy. Get your butt over here ..."

David Carr, QB, Houston Texans: "Nomeyohorengekyo, nomeyohorengekyo, nomeyohorengekyo, hari-hari, hari-hari ... anybody seen my finger cymbals?"

Eddie George, RB, Tennessee Titans: "Ray Lewis is out? Ah! Back to my old self. Can't believe Jamal asked if I had a choice, would I pick Halle or Janet. Who wants a woman less feminine than her own brother? Beside, I can't see the brother first, before I see the sister. Screws me up all up. It was like that for me with Julia Roberts. She never did it for me. I saw Eric Roberts first. So Julia looked like Eric in drag. Besides, Janet Jackson's abs are more shredded than mine. She might try to kick my butt. Check out Ohio State in the polls. Clarett wants to turn pro? He never called me. Stay in school, son. Especially if they offer you more money."

Junior Seau, LB, San Diego Chargers: "Two defensive TDs on the Rams and still lose? Mfff! %#&! Calm down, Jr. Breathe. Remember what the nice doctor lady said. Broken emotions, broken furniture, broken bones, broken lives. Gotta remember that, and to take my medication. All of it, this time. Seen our schedule? Who made that puppy out? The Mar-qwis dee Sad? &$&#!"

Orlando Pace, OT, St. Louis Rams: "Green, Warner, Bulger ... it just doesn't matter, as long as they line up behind big Orca, they'll all look like the second coming of Joe Montana. Keep waiting for Vanilla Eminem Martz to put in a tackle eligible play for me. What, do I have to write a letter? I want to dance. I'm smaht ..."

Jeremy Shockey, TE, New York Giants: "We're No. 1, we're No. 1 ... the 'Canes, I mean. I hope the gay community forgets my slight. My agent says I can sell a lot of posters on that side of the street. Hey, the only sexual orientation that counts is green ..."

Daunte Culpepper, QB, Minnesota Vikings: "I'm the starter! There was too a key! Somebody whose initials are Randy Moss did eat the strawberries! I did not steam over my own tow line! I did not lock up during the typhoon! Bet this wouldn't happen to Fran Tarkenton! And I could fold up Fran Tarkenton and put him in my back pocket! Denny? Denny! You said ... you promised ... (cries)"

James Mungro
Welcome to the NFL, James Mungro.
James Mungro, RB, Indianapolis Colts: "They said I couldn't do it. They said I'd never make it. What they didn't say was how much it hurted on Mondays. OWWWWW!"

Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: "Why's Jeff Lurie looking like that? There's gonna be Dilbert dog days like this. I can't win every week. Andy understands. Andy? Andy? Funny. He was right behind me. What's this ... a note to ... Ken Dorsey? Andy ... is that ... is that green lipstick on your collar? ... Andy?"

Bob Christian, RB, Atlanta Falcons: "Jesus! No, not you, Lord. I meant Vick. You're still Lord, Lord, but Vick's coming up fast. Better stay on your game, Lord. Hey. Lord Vick. Why ... it's a movie! Better go down and register this. Somebody will steal it."

Bill Cowher, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers: "That Michael Vick made my jaw drop, and if you've ever seen my jaw, you know that's a hell of a drop. Next time he shows up, I'm calling in sick."

Aaron Brooks, QB, New Orleans Saints: (imitating the voice of Mike Myers' Dr. Evil character) "... one million weapons ..."

Dick LeBeau, coach, Cincinnati Bengals: "We're not all that far away. But, then again, the 22nd century is not all that far away, depending on how you look at it. Gotta refresh my résumé."

Ed Reed
Whether he likes it or not, Ed Reed will now find his name mentioned with Leon Lett.
Ed Reed, DB, Baltimore Ravens: "I was not showboating. I am not no Leon Lett. I just didn't see the guy. Now I'm the poster child for no fundamentals? I'm starting in the NFL as a rookie and there's something wrong with me? Naw. Life wasn't this complex when I was a 'Cane. Two hours of practice, four hours of South Beach, eight hours of sleep. This ... this is too much like work ..."

Shawn Springs, DB, Seattle Seahawks: "Go Buckeyes. Go Microsoft. Go Holmgren. Go and get me an edge pass rusher. Anybody seen T.O.? No? Good. If he calls, I ain't in. Ever."

David Boston, WR, Arizona Cardinals: "Out for the year? My knee? Will it affect my upper body workout or my power shake consumption? No? Then what are you bothering me about it for? Hunh? I look like I want to be bothered? Hunh? Rage? What rage?"

Priest Holmes, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: "I'm your mama, I'm your daddy, I'm that n----- in the alley. Curtis Mayfield, musical genius. Who's Curtis Mayfield? I see everything ain't up to date in Kansas City. They do give me the rock. Make Priest. Up yours."

Julian Peterson, LB, San Francisco 49ers: "I just covered Tony Gonzalez like it was nothing, despite having a name like a jazz pianist/saxophonist. Julian 'Cannonball' Peterson. I likes, I likes."

Tom Brady
Tom Brady's Pats have won two straight ... but just barely.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: "Dahmn! Got some tiny little targets, compared to Favre or Garcia. Good, but tiny. Did you ever think about that? Did you ever once think about that?"

Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears: "How did we lose that game? Greg Blache might get run outta town now. Not good. I like how he makes the D-linemen strip the blockers away from me. I like being the middle backer from Hell. Ever been to Taos? Sante Fe? Nice. See me ride Kev Faulk like it was a steer-wrestling contest? Playing in Champaign is killing us. Well, I know it's killing me."

Ray Lucas, RB, Miami Dolphins: "Now who's fault is it? Troy Aikman? They still talking Troy Aikman? Yeah, bring his old, de-muscled butt on out here. One kill shot from Freeney or Arrington and he'll run back up to that Fox booth and rocking chair. Trust me on this. Look at Cris Carter's MRI before you decide. You do not want these exotic injuries. You do not want any more concussions. I don't think. If you do, hey ... welcome aboard."

Curtis Martin, WR, New York Jets: "Saddle me up, Herm, and ride me to a contract extension ... or not ... hey, I'm totally glad and happy for her that Toni Braxton got married. I wasn't marrying her ... forget it, Curt. It's Chinatown ... broads ... don't hit 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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