John Elway hasn't faced Mike Ditka in a football setting for a while. On Sunday, their teams square off in the playoffs.

Elway runs the Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League. Ditka is a minor owner of the Chicago Rush. Both Hall of Famers like to get involved with inspiring their players.

"Being a player my whole life, I enjoy being around the players," Elway said. "That is why I am thrilled to be involved with the AFL and to be involved with the Crush. This is one of the most important things in my life.

"If I'm around and they see me in the locker room, then they know it's important. If you have an owner who is never around, then I don't know if that affects other players, but I like to be around because I want them to know it's important to me and it should be important to them."

Elway has been involved in the AFL for three seasons. This is Ditka's first year.

"I feel the same way John does," he said. "I talk to the players and I see them, but I don't really get involved with interfering with them. I talk to them after the game and before the game. I'll go in and say hello to everybody.

"I'm not there to distract them. These guys got enough on their minds. They're going out there to play hard. That's what I'm impressed with. These kids go after it every time they're out there. They're going both ways most of them, so it's fun to watch."

Neither team has been in the ArenaBowl, but Sunday's winner will advance to the title game. Ditka's Rush beat Elway's Crush both times they met during the season.

African Trip

Derrick Brooks is in Africa. He brought 33 youngsters with him.

Through his Brooks Bunch -- Back to Africa program, the star linebacker and 33 members of the Wilbert Davis, Ybor City and Brandon Boys & Girls Clubs in Florida are traveling through South Africa. The travelers are visiting landmarks they studied in Brooks' Bunch classes, including an apartheid museum; the Cape of Good Hope; the site of Nelson Mandela's imprisonment, Robben Island; a gold mine, and a private safari camp.

Since September, the youngsters have studied Africa's culture and history during workshops. To earn a spot on Brooks' African expedition, students were required to write essays, perform various research assignments, compile a portfolio and present their work to a panel of judges. All assignments, along with the student's attendance and behavioral marks during the classes and at their regular schools, were tabulated and counted toward a final grade.

Students who completed their assignments, demonstrated good behavior and maintained their grades in school earned a ticket to South Africa.

Previous Brooks Bunch trips toured the western United States, the nation's capital, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A Super Home

Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington knows next February's Super Bowl will be played in his home stadium, and he acknowledges the occasional daydream about playing in that game.

Yet his primary focus this summer is on the Lions' season opener against the Green Bay Packers.

"Of course you think about it, but we have to get into the playoffs," Harrington said. "I want to be in the Super Bowl, but my goal is to win the football game ahead of me. If your goal is to win every football game ahead of you, then the result is you'll be in the playoffs and you'll have a shot to be in the Super Bowl."

Harrington's yardage numbers, touchdown totals and passer ratings have climbed in each of his first three NFL seasons, and he's coming off a year in which he threw for 3,047 yards and 19 touchdowns. But his team hasn't been winning -- the Lions were 6-10 last season.

Harrington could have another big stat bump this season, assuming new acquisition Jeff Garcia, a former Pro Bowl quarterback, doesn't take his job.

Detroit already had a promising young corps of receivers led by Charles Rogers and Roy Williams. And with this year's first-round pick, Southern California's Mike Williams, now in that mix, Harrington will have plenty of choices this fall.

"I had a feeling that they were looking at him," Harrington said of Williams, who played two years at USC, catching 176 passes for 2,579 yards and 30 touchdowns. "Things just kind of fell into our lap there and I'm not complaining."

He will complain, though, if Rogers and Roy Williams are snakebitten again by injuries.

Rogers has missed 26 of Detroit's 32 games the last two seasons after twice breaking his collarbone. Roy Williams also missed some time last year with an ankle injury that required offseason surgery.

"I'll be excited as soon as we can keep everybody healthy," Harrington said. "Last year we had Roy and Charles, which should be plenty, but we couldn't keep either of them healthy. The possibilities are there, but in this league, the teams that win games are the ones who stay healthy."

McKinney Keeps Quiet

Shortly after Ricky Williams retired unexpectedly from the Miami Dolphins last year, center Seth McKinney mentioned how angry he was with the 2002 NFL rushing champion.

"The most selfish thing a person could do," McKinney said last summer.

Now, Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg, says the running back wants to return this year and plans to be in Miami's training camp. And when asked about the prospect of Williams returning to Miami, McKinney had nothing to say.

"I'm not going to talk about that. I'm sorry," McKinney said.

The Williams saga has been a source of constant speculation around the Dolphins, although players insist they're not spending any time thinking about a reunion.

"He's not here. He's not part of the team, so it's not our place to even talk about it," offensive lineman Wade Smith said. "We talk about the guys that are still here now."

Dolphins Coach Nick Saban has said he's open to a Williams return, although he took Auburn's Ronnie Brown with the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft. Brown is expected to be the starting running back.

Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka, left, with Chicago Rush managing partner Alan Levin after Ditka became a minority owner in the Arena Football team.