SAN DIEGO, JAN. 25 -- The Denver Broncos, supposedly still wounded from last year's Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, arrived here today braced for six days of work and worry in preparation for Super Bowl XXII, against the Washington Redskins.
Football coaches wouldn't be football coaches unless they found a way to make their teams, champions though they are, sound like a local YMCA group. And, of course, the opponent is the greatest, most error-free, hard-working, bunch of do-gooders since last year's Super Bowl.
With that said, the Denver Broncos said they don't understand how the oddsmakers have made them four-point favorites in Sunday's game. "I don't know about that," Denver Coach Dan Reeves said. "If anything, it should be a tossup."
Reeves and the Broncos are still taking exception to an article written last week that suggested Denver, led by quarterback John Elway, is a one-man team. Other coaches and players around the NFL have said nearly as much during the season, as the Broncos sustained injury after injury, only to overcome primarily on the talents of Elway.
But the Broncos still don't buy that and said so tonight when addressing the media arrival in southern California. Elway said he feels insulted whenever the "one-man team" theory is mentioned and Reeves said, "It insults me, too, but if that's the way that people want to perceive it . . . "
Reeves certainly wasn't about to let things get too serious so soon. When asked whether he would impose a curfew similar to the one that his friend and counterpart Joe Gibbs set for the Redskins, Reeves saw just the opportunity he'd been waiting for.
"We've only got a one-man team," he said. "So, we only give John Elway a curfew. There's 44 of them who can do whatever the heck they want to; we'll just make sure No. 7 is in bed early."
One Denver player found his wallet a little lighter even before the curfew had been imposed. Receiver Vance Johnson, who missed the AFC championship victory over Cleveland because of a groin injury suffered the previous week, was fined $500.
Johnson, who was hospitalized the Thursday night before Sunday's AFC title game, probably didn't endear himself to the Denver coaches when he and fellow "Three Amigos" Ricky Jackson and Mark Jackson rode horses for a promotion based on the moniker they have.
But Reeves said today that Johnson wasn't fined because he rode the horse. "He was fined," Reeves said, "because he missed treatment to do it and anybody who misses treatment gets hit with the standard fine."
One Denver player who apparently will not be ready Sunday is running back Gerald Willhite, out most of the season with a broken leg. Willhite, who suffered the fracture in Week 6, has been rehabilitating madly and had thoughts of trying to play in the Super Bowl.
But a conversation with former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, among other things, helped Willhite change his mind. Theismann, now a CBS analyst for NFL games, told Willhite it took his broken leg more than a year to mend (Theismann, of course, was not able to resume his career). Willhite took the first-person experience to heart and seems to have changed his mind.