Dolphins Flounder in the Mud of Oakland

Times Staff Writer

The Miami Dolphins would have felt right at home this week--if their home in Florida were the Everglades.

Coach Don Shula said that the team's practice site, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum where the Raiders used to play, resembles a swamp more than a football field.

"The field, I guess, is still below sea-level," Shula said. "It's wet and comes up in huge blobs. It's really hard to have to slow down to get the timing between our quarterbacks and receivers because of the possibility of slipping and pulling a groin muscle."

Shula grinned and added: "To think that I once accused Al Davis of standing out there with a water hose in preparation for the Dolphins coming. They didn't have to do anything."

Wide receiver Mark Clayton said: "It's the pits. I never worked on a field like that in my life. You can't even make a cut on it. You have to be timid. Every time you come off the line of scrimmage, the turf comes up.

"I was out last week (with a shoulder injury) and it's hard to get my timing back on a field like that. A couple of times yesterday I was making a cut and threw my back out a little bit while slipping."

Dolphin tight end Joe Rose, who played at nearby Cal, is familiar with the field.

"It always seems to be wet," Rose said. "Even when it's dry it's wet."

Wide receiver Mark Duper shrugged and said: "We've adjusted to it."

But defensive back Paul Lankford said: "You really have to look where you're stepping. There's holes in that field. I'm replacing divots as much as covering people."

David Shula, who coaches the receivers, said: "We've had to say to everybody, 'Just slow down and keep your body under control.' It's restricted us some, but it's not something we feel is going to hurt us going into the game."

The Dolphins will practice on the field today, then work in Stanford Stadium, site of the game, on Saturday. The Cardinal field has been declared in excellent condition and rain is not expected.

Even if it does rain, 49er Coach Bill Walsh, who previously coached at Stanford, said: "Rain wouldn't be a factor on that field because it really absorbs rain."

Another Dolphin wide receiver, Jimmy Cefalo, also looked at the bright side.

"It's been like running in sand (in practice)," Cefalo said. "So once we get on the Stanford Stadium turf, we'll be lightning quick."

The 49ers may be overloaded with Ferraris for the Super Bowl.

Quarterback Joe Montana has traded in his old one--$55,000, with only 11,000 miles on it, if you're interested--for a new one.

Also, reserve linebacker Ron Ferrari may be restored to the active roster if tight end John Frank's injury keeps him out.

Frank and Lankford are operating on the power of positive thinking this week. Lankford, the Dolphins' fifth defensive back, has been listed as questionable because of a sprained knee.

"I'm gonna be there," Lankford said. "It's the Super Bowl."

Asked if Shula would have anything to say about it, Lankford said: "He doesn't know how it (the knee) feels. He can't get inside my knee."

Frank, a rookie from Ohio State, dislocated his right elbow in the 49ers' NFC title game against the Bears.

'It's going to be a three-way decision, Dr. Mike Dillingham, Coach Walsh and me," Frank said Thursday. "There are still three days to go.

"Maybe Sunday the adrenaline will be flowing and I'll be like the housewife lifting the two-ton car because her son's underneath."

Frank and Lankford will get their full shares--$36,000 to the winners, $18,000 to the losers--even if they don't play.

In fact, according to rules of the NFL Players Assn., several injured players will receive varying playoff shares, up to the full $64,000 for 49er cornerback Tim Collier and wide receiver Dan Fulton, who haven't played a down all season.

Dolphin defensive end Doug Betters is a seven-year veteran who has been all-pro, so he might be expected to take his second Super Bowl in stride.

Not so. Betters still is upset about losing to the Redskins at Pasadena.

"I don't want to go through what it was two years ago," he said. "It was too much of a downer. You may not get here again.

"The nervousness is there, tension is in the air. It's not loosey-goosey like it was the last time."

By the end of the third day of interviews Thursday, the players seemed to be on automatic pilot.

Guard Randy Cross of the 49ers, who is writing "Super Bowl Diary" for the San Francisco Chronicle, said: "We did get to hear 20 questions asked 200 different ways."

Dolphin wide receiver Mark Clayton put off arriving at his assigned table until the last possible minute, then sat down stonily, wearing dark glasses and a cap pulled down low over his face.

The first question put to him was the least original of the week: "Do you think the 49er defensive backs will try to intimidate you?"

Clayton tried to think of a new way to answer. Finally, he turned to the reporter and asked: "Were you here yesterday?"

Certain writers may not be on Joe Montana's guest list for a postgame party.

One pointed out, and another reprinted it, that Montana's erratic play in the last two games "coincides with the announcement of his betrothal."

Montana's third wife will be Jennifer Wallace, the blonde who plays the part of the sheriff in his shaving cream commercial.

The NFL said Thursday that 105 suspected counterfeit tickets still are unaccounted for in wake of the discovery last weekend of the fake ticket scheme.

The seat locations, duplicating authentic tickets, are in sections F, X and J.

There are 18 Pro Bowl selections on the teams, 10 of them 49ers. Cornerback Eric Wright was added to the NFC team this week when the Giants' Mark Haynes withdrew because of an injury. That gave the 49er secondary a four-man sweep.

Marino and Montana will stage a rematch in Honolulu Jan. 27.

NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle's annual "intimate" Super Bowl party is scheduled tonight at Moscone Center, with some 3,000 guests expected.

Featured will be Bay Area cuisine and entertainment, including the St. Mary's Chinese Drum and Bell Corps.

The Super Bowl referee will be no rookie. He is Pat Haggerty, a 20-year NFL official who also worked Super Bowls XIII and XVI.

Playoff officials are hand-picked from the regular-season crews, and the Super Bowl officials are selected from those who worked the playoffs.

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