washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > NFL > Index > Preview

Tools of The Trade

Wednesday, September 8, 2004; Page H04


Eye Black: Jerry Rice swears by the stuff. It was designed to prevent the sun's glare from interfering with a player's ability to see the ball in the air, but it doesn't hurt that it adds a renegade appearance. Perfect for the Raiders.

Stickum: Fred Biletnikoff was famous for his soft hands covered with the gooey substance. What exactly was it made of anyway? Stickum eventually was outlawed, but not before Biletnikoff was well on his way to the Hall of Fame.

_____ NFL '04 _____
With what may be the most talented group of receivers the NFL has ever seen, look for the game to be more wide open than ever this season.
Officials will put teeth in a rule prohibiting a defender from impeding a receiver more than five yards downfield.
How the rule is to be interpreted.
Darrell Green knows a thing or two about receivers and shares his all-time top five.
Receivers should get a big boost from the rule modification.
Don't call it the T.O. rule or the Joe Horn rule, but expect a crackdown on TD celebrations.
A WR's tools of the trade
Top 5 end zone celebrations
The NFL's top 10 storylines of '04
News Graphic: The evolution of the modern day wide receiver (PDF)

_____The Redskins_____
Joe Gibbs returns to the sideline knowing a modification of the ruled will have a major impact on his approach to the passing game.
Gregg Williams oversees a defense that has been revamped since finishing 25th among the league's 32 teams last season.
The Eagles appear to be the class of the NFC East, which may be on the way back after having fallen on lean times the past eight years.
Offensive depth chart
Defensive depth chart

_____The Ravens_____
While not flashy, wide receiver Kevin Johnson could be the key to opening up Baltimore's offense.

_____Team Previews_____
In predicted order of finish

NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins
New York Giants

NFC South
New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta Falcons

NFC North
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions

NFC West
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals

AFC East
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans
Houston Texans

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs
Denver Broncos
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers


Sharpie: Terrell Owens took the end zone celebration to new heights (or lows, depending on whom you ask) when after catching a touchdown pass against the Seahawks in October 2002, he took a Sharpie pen out of his sock, signed the ball and gave it to his financial adviser, who was sitting in the stands.

Pom-poms: Later in the same season, Owens borrowed the accessories from a 49ers cheerleader and did a little dance after scoring on a 45-yard pass against the Packers.

Gloves: Owens can draw negative attention even with this simplest of implements. He likes to color his gloves all black, and that means painting over the NFL shield. Of course, that's a league no-no.

Cell Phones: In a mid-December game last season, Joe Horn used a cell phone to make a call after scoring the second of his four touchdowns. The phone was hidden in the goal post padding, and teammate Michael Lewis retrieved it before giving it to Horn.

Homemade Signs: A repeated target of the NFL for excessive end zone celebrations, Chad Johnson followed a touchdown in a December game last season by holding up a sign -- it was hidden behind a snow pile -- that read: "Dear NFL: Please don't fine me again." The league didn't listen and issued a $10,000 penalty.

-- Gene Wang

© 2004 The Washington Post Company