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LESSONS FROM SABAN PAY OFF FOR SCHOTTENHEIMER

Marty Schottenheimer has been pushing all of the right motivational buttons this year with his San Diego Chargers team.

Last week he reached back to his days as a Buffalo Bills player under Lou Saban for some tactics to get his team ready for a big game with San Francisco.

The Chargers entered the Niners game on a two-game losing streak. Schottenheimer decided to boost his club's confidence the night before the game by showing a one-hour highlight tape of all the good things it had done this year. The Chargers won Sunday, 20-17, in overtime. The coach also went easy on his club three weeks ago after a blowout loss to the Jets.

It was a page from the Saban book, said Schottzy, who this week recalled the 1965 season, when he was a rookie linebacker for the Bills.

"I was petrified of Saban," Schottzy said. "He was on you every step of the way, and I never knew when I did anything right because anything he said to me, I was probably paralyzed with fear of the guy. But we had won six or seven games in a row, and after every game it was a tirade, raising the devil. And one time he picked up a projector and threw it across the room. It was crazy, and I'm thinking, 'What in the world is this?'

"So we finally lost a game, and in those days you didn't go in until Tuesday. Monday was your day off," he said. "And we talked about it, some of the players, (saying) 'We may not survive this meeting.' And he walked in and said, 'Hey, we didn't play as well as we're capable of playing. We need to understand that. We need to go fix it, but we're capable of getting it fixed and let's go do it.' We were absolutely dumbfounded.

"I think sometimes what they deserve isn't what they need," Schottenheimer concluded.

Jones is prime talent

Pass rushers are like centers on a basketball team. You need to bring them in by the truckload and hope a few of them pan out, because most of them won't.

So it was a great move by the Bills this week to be proactive and sign Tampa defensive end Marcus Jones.

This is a guy who had 13 sacks two years ago. He was the 22nd overall pick in the first round in 1996. He's a talent. The Bills got him without paying him a signing bonus, so he's no risk on the salary cap in the unlikely event he doesn't recover from cartilage damage to his knee, which kept him on the sidelines this year.

Jones had only three sacks last year for the Bucs. He had switched from right defensive end, where he played in 2000, to the left side because the Bucs had signed Simeon Rice to be their No. 1 pass rusher. He also was slowed by minor bumps and bruises. He also had just received a new contract prior to last year.

Finding talent on the defensive line isn't easy. The Bills don't have a No. 1 pick next spring. Teams usually don't let their best pass-rushers get to free agency. Jones could be an impact player, and he's already in the bank for next year. He's scheduled to get base salaries of $1.2 million in 2003 and $1.5 million for '04.

Wilson lauds Marzo

The Bills are confident Jones will recover from cartilage damage to his knee in time for spring workouts. Jones underwent surgery in August to repair the knee, and the Bills are scheduled to have further surgery performed on it.

The Bills have seen good recoveries by numerous injured players following major surgeries in recent years -- Shawn Bryson, Tony Driver, Jerry Ostroski, John Holecek and Sean Moran among the many. Owner Ralph Wilson praises the work of team orthopedist Dr. John Marzo.

"We've got a great doctor, as good as there is in the league," Wilson said. "We've never had a problem with any player who's had a surgery Dr. Marzo has done."

Marzo has headed the Bills' medical staff since 1995.

Stewart's audition

Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart today begins what essentially is an audition for a job somewhere else next year when he retakes the reins of the Steelers' offense. This likely is Stewart's final season with the Steelers, and his last chance to help them into a Super Bowl, even if it's only a few games before Tommy Maddox returns from his injury. The Steelers have four of their final six games at home.

He has one year left on his contract but with a salary of $6.3 million for 2003, they won't keep him as a backup, and they have decided to go with Maddox, as long as he's healthy. With Maddox out, Charlie Batch moves up to No. 2 quarterback behind Stewart and rookie receiver Antwaan Randle El will serve as the emergency No. 3 quarterback.

Beuerlein's bad luck

The Broncos should be fine with Steve Beuerlein filling in for injured Brian Griese in Denver the next couple of weeks. Beuerlein is a decent quarterback who never got the stars to line up for him during his 16-year career.

His first NFL stop was Los Angeles, where he started out OK. But Raiders owner Al Davis refused to forgive Beuerlein for not re-signing with the team until the week before the 1990 opener. After the season, Beuerlein was dealt to Dallas, where he found himself stuck behind Troy Aikman. Beuerlein then was recruited to Arizona by coach Joe Bugel, but Bugel got fired after one season. Buddy Ryan then left Beuerlein exposed in the expansion draft. Jacksonville made him its No. 1 pick in 1995, but then traded two draft picks to Green Bay for their quarterback of the future, Mark Brunell. Finally in his 13th season, in 1999, Beuerlein made the Pro Bowl for Carolina.

Inspector LeBeau

Bengals coach Dick LeBeau was asked about the dynamic, versatile, skill players on Pittsburgh's offense. His response: "Remember the Pink Panther? He said, 'I suspect no one, but I suspect everyone. I accuse no one, but I accuse everyone.' You better watch everybody out there that has an 80 or a 40 or an eligible number on them. You can get anything from these guys."

Onside kicks

Ex-Bills special teams coach Ronnie Jones went 0-11 this year in his first season as head coach at Division II West Texas A&M. The club did not give up any kickoff returns for TDs. West Texas went 2-9 last year and had been picked for last in its conference this season.

The Steelers' Jerome Bettis needs 29 yards to pass O.J. Simpson and move into 11th place on the all-time rushing list. Bettis has 11,209 yards.

Shades of Jim Kelly: Brett Favre was penalized 15 yards for tackling Vikings safety Jack Brewer when he was three steps out of bounds after an interception return. Kelly, as many may recall, broke the leg of an Atlanta Falcons player while making a tackle after an interception in 1995.

The Rams and the 2001 Redskins are the only teams to start 0-5 and go 5-5 since the AFL-NFL merger.

The Bucs lead the NFL in consecutive games with a sack at 54 and counting. Next closest is St. Louis with 15. The record is 68 set by the Dallas Cowboys from 1976-80.

It's tough being an NFL coach. Jim Fassel is 50-39-1 with the Giants. Bill Parcells was 49-40-1 after 90 games. Yet there's talk Fassel is on a hot seat. "If I'm on the hot seat, holy (cow)," Fassel said this week.

A couple ex-NFLers will be in the spotlight in today's CFL Grey Cup final. Former Dolphins first-round pick John Avery rushed for 1,448 yards for Edmonton. Another ex-first-rounder, Nebraska product Lawrence Phillips, rushed for 1,022 yards for Montreal.

Bengals Futility Dept.: QB Jon Kitna needs to play 80 percent of the snaps to get a $1.6 million bonus in 2003. If he plays the rest of the season it looks like he'll play 79.5 percent of the snaps. Think the Bengals will give him the bonus anyway? Hah!

Trying to shore up a leaky rush defense, the Saints have demoted inconsistent defensive tackle Norman Hand and replaced him with second-year pro Kenny Smith. A member of the Saints' Heavy Lunch Bunch, the 340-pound Hand has been one of the team's marquee defensive players since joining the team as a free agent in 2000. But the Saints have been getting gashed on the ground of late.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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