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Dilfer faces rejection with class

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By HUBERT MIZELL

© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 21, 2001


Cheers for Trent Dilfer. With the Bucs, he was brutally booed. Slammed by public and media. Eventually fired.

Two years later, T.D. has a Super Bowl ring, but he has more definitively become the quarterback NFL teams periodically need but never really want.

In his past 13 starts, Dilfer is 13-0, including 11 last season with Baltimore, climaxed by Super Bowl XXXV, coincidentally performed in Tampa where months before Trent was lavishly lambasted.

Fast forward to present.

This Sunday, he rests. Dilfer's latest employer, the Seahawks, have a bye. Seattle stumbled into 2001, losing two of three in September. Matt Hasselbeck, a gifted kid Mike Holmgren coached in Green Bay, was getting little accomplished. Then he got hurt.

Dilfer, disowned by the Ravens, was jobless through the offseason until Seahawks czar Holmgren was desperate for a backup. Two weeks ago, in a considerable funk, Holmgren started Dilfer against Jacksonville. Again, he was the winning quarterback.

Next, it was Denver coming to Husky Stadium. Hasselbeck's groin still in pain. One more time, T.D. played. Broncos were upset. Dilfer's magical ride reached 13 in a row. He blew kisses to the crowd.

But now, Matt is well. Trent is headed back to the bench. It's an old feeling. Dilfer got bounced by the Bucs as they fell in '99 love with Shaun King. Mere days after experiencing the NFL ultimate with the Ravens, termination papers came for Dilfer. Baltimore was bringing in Elvis Grbac.

Dilfer keeps reacting with class. Refusing to bash Bucs or Ravens or Seahawks. On Hasselbeck, he said, "Matt is going to be a great football player. I know my role. Players should be selfless. Coach Holmgren is our leader. I trust and respect his decisions."

Cheers for T.D.

HOME RUNS: During a recent German tournament, John Daly confessed, "I'm scared; we're all scared. But I'm more scared in the States. I don't feel safe anywhere in the U.S." Yeah, in a room for one, J.D. always sleeps with his biggest enemy. ... It's the heart of football season, but Michael Jordan's capital impact can be measured by a Washington Post sports section last week, where 43 column inches were dedicated to the Redskins and 236 to Wizards basketball. ... Ray Lewis appropriately is recognized as the NFL's boss linebacker, but my eyes see as much talent, quickness and vigor from Chicago's terrific Butkus-Singletary successor Brian Urlacher. ... Was it a mushy key in Auburn's shocking overturn of the Florida Gators? Tigers defensive end James Callier eats Gerber's baby food the night before games. Favorite flavor: cherry. "It's just my thing," he said. "I'm still a man who can stick out his chest." But who burps a 246-pound athlete?

READERS' SHOUTS: E-mail from Zhong Ping Lee of St. Petersburg observes, "Read your sensationally titled article U.S. Should Boycott 2008 Beijing Games, finding it not convincing at all. Before arguing with you, I have a question: How many times have you visited China?"

E-mail from Jim Kuppe in Bradenton says, "Kudos for outlining a sensible case against the Olympics. It represents what a majority of Americans feel. Right is right and the United States and all free nations should refuse to participate."

Letter from John W. Lee of Inverness offers, "A lot of what you lay on Barry Bonds can be explained (but not excused) by the era in which he arrived on the scene and what it was like (and expected) to be young and black."

HUBERT'S REPLIES: Been to China once, in 1998, experiencing Hong Kong and Beijing. Modern leaders are addressing historic misdeeds but far more is needed. How prudent if the United States were to use this rare leverage, demanding dramatic further upswings in human rights, with hope that enough can be achieved to allow Americans clearer minds about competing in seven years.

As for Bonds, he grew up in the same era as Tony Gwynn, Darrell Green, Tony Dungy and Randall Cunningham, who are thoughtful, humble, courteous, considerate, classy and black. So, no, I'll cut no slack for B.B., who has never been poor or shortchanged by society.

TOUCHDOWNS: Kansas State had a phenomenal rise to national prominence, having long been the Big 12's lowliest football act. But the Wildcats still didn't cope with the best, going 2-20 against Top 10 opponents, and this season coach Bill Snider's gents are backsliding, well in arrears of Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. ... Until the reigning Ravens played at Green Bay, the NFL's defensive colossus had not allowed a touchdown drive longer than 33 yards; along comes the smiling but lethal Brett Favre and his Packers to score four times on marches of 59 and longer. ... Next month, Fuzzy Zoeller turns 50; you wonder if his golf zeal can be effectively rekindled on the Senior PGA Tour with fading traces of a haunting cloud from his racially bothersome Masters remarks. ... You may choose to disagree, but among three TV pregame shows on NFL Sunday, here's my take: ESPN with Berman, Jackson, Sharpe, Mortensen and Young is the most authoritative and informative; Fox with Brown, Collinsworth, Long and Bradshaw is the most friendly and also quite helpful; but CBS with an entirely competent Jim Nantz matched with miscast, overbearing ex-coaches Jerry Glanville and Mike Ditka is consistently nauseating.

Whatever happened to Lance Alworth?

-- To reach Hubert Mizell, e-mail mmizell02@earthlink.net or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.

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