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Published: Sunday, 11/12/2000

Lions' Ross is not a quitter

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

One man's opinion:

The words “Bobby Ross” and “quitter” appeared in the same sentence last week, which was an injustice to the former Detroit Lions coach.

True, he quit. But there's a difference.

Ross realized he was taking the game more seriously than were his players and that losing was a bigger deal to him than it was to them.

The Lions didn't exactly quit on Ross. There was no mutiny. But there certainly was a generation gap and it was fairly obvious the coach had taken this team as far as he could take it.

So Ross figured there was no reason to continue, not when there was a chance that someone else could light a fire under the Lions and, perhaps, still get them into the playoffs.

There was another reason for his resignation.

In the event no one noticed, Ross is an aging and, we suspect, ailing man. We can't give you any details because he never shared them with anyone. But coaching the Lions was driving him to an early grave.

Ross, who turns 64 next month, gave all he had to his players and not all of them responded in kind. He was physically and emotionally spent.

So he made an appropriate decision to relinquish the reins.

But a quitter?

Not Bobby Ross.

Scattergunning the NFL:

FIRST AND GHOUL: The Browns had first-and-goal at the opponents' 1-yard line in each of their last two games and failed to score touchdowns on either occasion.

But that's nothing compared to the Patriots, who visit Cleveland Browns Stadium this afternoon.

Last Sunday, thanks to a couple penalties against Buffalo, New England had first-and-goal at the Bills' 1 three times in the same series. And didn't score a point.

WALL-OF-FAME: A number of NFL teams will honor Veterans Day in ceremonies today. But the most poignant remembrance will take place in Buffalo, where the Bills will induct the only active NFL player killed in the Vietnam War onto its Wall of Fame at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Bob Kalsu, a guard for the Bills in 1968, was killed by mortar fire defending an isolated mountaintop in Vietnam's Ashua Valley. His widow and two children will attend the ceremony.

PASS HAPPY: Kansas City lost at Oakland last weekend despite a 500-yard passing performance by quarterback Elvis Grbac.

Look for some big numbers again today when the Chiefs face the San Francisco 49ers.

Grbac has completed 188 of 309 passes (.608) for 2,497 yards and 21 touchdowns, but he's looking up the stat sheet at 49ers QB Jeff Garcia, who has completed 22 of 351 (.632) for 2,606 yards and 24 TDs.

LEADERS MEET: A pair of NFC division leaders, St. Louis and the New York Giants, square off today at Giants Stadium. Even though Rams quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk will both miss the game because of injuries, the Giants know better than to expect an easy time of it.

“We can't try to be the Rams,” said Giants running back Tiki Barber. “We can't try to go deep on every play. It might serve us well to take some time off the clock to keep them off the field. But we know we have to score points, because no matter what you do to keep them off the field they're going to score.”

DIFFERENT DRAFT: Because of trades former coach Mike Ditka made to acquire running back Ricky Williams in the '99 draft, the New Orleans Saints were left with only one selection among the first 95 picks in the 2000 draft.

So general manager Randy Mueller went another direction and, arguably, no team has reaped more benefits from signing free agents.

“We felt as if we had multiple needs and limited draft picks,” Mueller said. “So free agency was kind of our draft.”

Mueller signed quarterback Jeff Blake (Cincinnati), defensive tackle Norman Hand (San Diego), wide receivers Joe Horn (Kansas City) and Willie Jackson (Cincinnati), cornerbacks Steve Israel (New England) and Fred Thomas (Seattle), safety Chris Oldham (Pittsburgh), linebacker Charlie Clemons (St. Louis) and punter Toby Gowin (Dallas).

Blake, Hand and Horn have been standouts as the Saints, 3-13 last season, have won five straight to improve to 6-3 under rookie head coach Jim Haslett.

IT'S CALLED PARITY: Oakland is 8-1, but coach Jon Gruden knows that won't mean much tomorrow night when the Raiders try to avenge their only loss at 5-4 Denver.

“You don't discriminate against any team in the National Football League,” Gruden said. “You saw what the Chicago Bears did to Indianapolis last weekend. Or Green Bay beating Minnesota.

“Everybody has talent, everybody has a salary cap, everybody is faced with injuries. It's just the way in this league. A 4-12 team (St. Louis's record in 1998) won the Super Bowl last year. There are always surprises. The message to players is to get used to it, concentrate, get yourself ready to play and don't make any mistakes on Sunday or anybody can beat you.”

THREE-DOT DATA: Tampa Bay has already blocked six punts and field goals this season. ... Why would Lions WR Herman Moore have an altercation with QB Stoney Case? He caught four passes from Case in 16 minutes after catching zero with Charlie Batch at QB in the first 44 minutes last Sunday against Miami. ... Batch said he'll “never forgive” Lions fans for cheering when he was knocked out of that game with a concussion.

PARTING SHOT: Last Sunday, a pair of brothers scored touchdowns in the same NFL game for the first time in 75-plus years. Willie Jackson of the Saints and his brother Terry, a receiver for the 49ers, both caught TD passes in New Orleans's 31-15 win.

The last time it happened was Nov. 30, 1924, when Dutch and Joey Sternaman of the Chicago Bears scored touchdowns in a 31-14 victory over Milwaukee.



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