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Green is left to ask, 'What if'

By BRUCE LOWITT, DAMIAN CRISTODERO, RICK STROUD and ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2000


ST. LOUIS -- Timing is everything.

"At the time of the injury," Rams quarterback Trent Green said, "I was playing at the highest level I've ever played."

He had completed 28 of 32 passes for 406 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 126.6 in the preseason, showing he just might be worth his four-year, $16-million contract.

Then he tore up his knee in the third preseason game, and his season ended.

That gave Arena League refugee Kurt Warner the opportunity to step up, lead the Rams to a 13-3 regular-season record, lead the NFL in touchdown passes (41), yards per attempt (8.72 yards), completion percentage (65.1) and quarterback rating (109.2), bomb Minnesota into submission in the NFC divisional playoff and become a most unlikely hero.

"Whether I'd be able to put up the numbers Kurt has, who's to say?" Green said. "Maybe I put up better, maybe I don't. Those are all hypotheticals."

COMINGS AND GOINGS: Defensive backs coach Herman Edwards said he is aware of reports that the Vikings and Packers are interested in him as defensive coordinator. Edwards, also the assistant head coach, said he would be interested in talking with either team but added he is unlikely to leave the Bucs. "It's an honor to have them mention your name and people think you could be a coordinator," he said. "But I love my situation here and my son (Marcus) is going to be a senior in high school (at Tampa Catholic) next year." ... To fill out the 53-man roster, the Bucs signed offensive tackle DeMarcus Curry from the practice squad and signed free-agent linebacker Antony Jordan, who played for the Colts in 1998.

A NEW LEVEL: Former Bucs defensive end Lee Roy Selmon likes the way quarterback Shaun King is playing. Likes it so much, he compares King favorably with Doug Williams, who led the 1979 Bucs to the NFC title game against the Los Angeles Rams.

"People like Doug Williams elevate other people's play because they feel like if we give this talented player a chance, things will happen," said Selmon, a Hall of Famer who played for Tampa Bay from 1976-84.

He said King is reaping that same benefit. "I really think that for whatever reasons, they went out and they elevated their play to allow him to do some things."

Selmon said that means, "You run a little bit harder, you block a little bit longer. You do those things just a tad bit better."

And King holds up his end.

"What I like about him is his poise," Selmon said. "He seems very comfortable and he's handling it oh, so well. And also, his decisionmaking has been outstanding. If things are not there, throw it away, get that defense back out there. I think the mark of a good quarterback is the decisionmaking process and I think he's doing a pretty good job of that."

HEAD CASE: It's not easy to annoy Rams coach Dick Vermeil, but one writer did a pretty good job of it.

He asked Vermeil to compare the Rams and Jaguars.

"Jacksonville? We're playing Tampa (Bay)," the coach said, frowning.

"I've got a job to do," the writer said.

"So do I," Vermeil replied.

Then Vermeil answered the question, with the caveat that he wasn't looking past the Bucs.

And when asked to compare his coaching style with Jacksonville's Tom Coughlin's, Vermeil said, "Tom is more like I used to be." Vermeil was tightly wound when he coached the Eagles, finally quitting because of burnout.

MAKE THE TACKLE: After further review, the Bucs secondary said the Rams are as dangerous on short routes as on long routes. In fact, nickel back Brian Kelly, who likely will see a lot of time in the Rams' three-receiver set, said the key is to not let the Rams gain extra yardage after the catch.

"When you see them scoring a lot of points, there are not necessarily throwing the ball downfield a lot," Kelly said. "They are making some short throws and the guys are great athletes and make yards after the catch.

"Not just (Marshall) Faulk, but all of them, they are making great moves and making guys miss. Five-yard hits are turning into 40-yard touchdowns. So, we really have to tackle and go into the game with that emphasis in mind."

AND, EVENTUALLY, BUCCO BRUCE: Football helmets didn't always carry fancy designs like lions and horseshoes and gators and spears. (And winking, stiletto-biting cavaliers, for that matter.)

Once upon a time the helmets all were the same: brown leather. But shortly after the transition to the first harder, more protective surfaces, Clarence "Fred" Gehrke decided to liven his up. This was long before focus groups and computer experts got involved in designing, well, skulls and crossbones on flags.

Gehrke was a halfback and defensive back who joined the Cleveland Rams in 1940 and, after World War II, rejoined them in 1945, by which time they had moved to Los Angeles.

Gehrke had studied graphic arts at Utah and decided in 1948 to add a personal touch to his plain blue helmet. He drew gold ram's horns on it.

Teammates, impressed, asked him to add the horns to their helmets. Before the season ended, the team had him decorate all the helmets. It didn't take long for the idea to spread to other pro teams and colleges.

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