© St. Petersburg Times, published October 6, 2002
Pittsburgh quarterback Tommy Maddox makes the jump from backup to starter today, but his rise to the top of the depth chart has been quite a journey.
Consider that after being cut by the Falcons in 1997, Maddox sold insurance for three years. It was a huge step backward for a guy who was the Broncos' first-round draft pick in 1992. Then, after getting back into football and playing in the Arena Football League and the XFL, he sent letters to every NFL team asking for a tryout. The Steelers were the only team that gave him a chance.
Now, he's the starter for a team that, despite its slow start, is still among the most talented in the league.
"The one thing about Tommy, people used to call him a bust. To me, a bust is a guy who gets on the field and gets a chance to perform and doesn't," said Al Luginbill, Maddox's XFL coach. "If you look at Tommy Maddox, he got drafted by team who had an All-Pro quarterback (John Elway), maybe one of the best ever. You're talking about a guy who never had a chance to be the guy until arena football."
LOOKING IN THE MIRROR: You don't have to look far to see why the Titans are off to a slow start. In four games, they've had three punts returned for touchdowns against them and have lost two onside kicks. They also have more penalties (36) than any team except the expansion Texans.
Still, Titans coach Jeff Fisher said good things are in the team's future.
"If anyone on this team -- by their play or by their expression or by their attitude in these hallways -- acts like this season is all for naught, they won't be on this team any longer," Fisher warned. "There are a lot of games left, and this is going to be a good football team."
IS EVERYBODY HAPPY NOW?: Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who couldn't get his starting job back from Tom Brady when he was in New England last season, leads the league in passing yards, while Brady is second.
BUCKLE UP: The defending champion Patriots looked great in the first quarter of the season, but trouble may be lurking. After losing last weekend to undefeated San Diego, the Patriots next play the Dolphins, Packers and Broncos.
They don't face a team that currently has a losing record until Nov. 24 when they play the Vikings.
DID YOU KNOW?: Chiefs running back Priest Holmes, the league's rushing leader last season, flies every Monday from Kansas City to San Antonio, Texas, to visit his three sons for a day.
"He pretends he isn't sore, but I know he is," said Stephanie, the mother of Holmes' children. "I'm just really proud that he's doing what he's doing."
STAT OF THE WEEK: The Saints have scored nine touchdowns in 10 red zone trips.
STAT OF THE WEEK II: With 142 points, the Chiefs are on pace to break the league scoring record of 556 set by the 1998 Vikings. With 439 yards allowed per game, they are on pace for 7,024, which would break the single-season record of 6,793 by the 1981 Colts.
HE SAID IT: The Vikings, still reeling from an 0-4 start and Randy Moss' latest stint at the Hennepin County jail, have a bye today.
Asked what would make this a productive bye week, coach Mike Tice said: "Nobody gets hurt and I don't have to go down to Hennepin County."
FIELD OF DREAMS?: The Cowboys unveil their new playing surface at Texas Stadium today. The surface is called RealGrass and has gotten rave reviews in other sports. It was used at the Alamodome, where the Cowboys held training camp this summer, but has never been used for an NFL game, raising some concerns.
"We've done our research, and we feel very good about our field," stadium president Stephen Jones said.
PACK UP THE HOUSE: Bengals quarterback Akili Smith apparently wants out of Cincinnati.
"I'm just going to sit down at the end of the year with my agent and evaluate things and see what the heck is going on," said Smith, who is 3-14 in 17 starts.
ON THE COUCH: Not every Jaguars player approves of the team wanting a sports psychologist to work with players on positive thinking. Take quarterback Mark Brunell, for instance.
"I'm too old for that psychologist stuff. Let's just play football," quipped Brunell. "I don't know if that's the wave of the future for professional sports or what. We'll probably get (famed inspirational speaker) Tony Robbins in here next."
-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.