Pro Football / Bob Oates : Krieg Likes Starting Out on Top

Seattle quarterback Dave Krieg welcomes the idea that the Seahawks are favored to win the title in the AFC West this season and reach the Super Bowl.

"I'd rather be favored than not," Krieg said the other day. "I keep reading that everybody shoots at the favorite, but that's ridiculous. In this league, when don't they shoot at you? Do you think the Raiders would let up on us if they read we were fifth best instead of first best? Don't be silly."

Krieg threw 32 touchdown passes last year, second only to Dan Marino, as Chuck Knox coached the Seahawks (12-4) into the playoffs.

"I don't buy stock in predictions," said Knox, who in only a couple of seasons at Seattle has turned an also-ran into an NFL leader. "Predictions are based on last year. We haven't beaten anyone this year."

Halfback Curt Warner, who missed 1984 with a knee injury, has returned and given strong performances in two Seattle exhibition games.

In fact, in films of his fighting 13-yard run at Minnesota last week, he looks precisely like the Warner of 1983, when he led the AFC in rushing as a rookie.

The Seahawks will open at Cincinnati Sept. 8.

"Curt will be ready to go," Knox said.

The Rams have painted their way into a corner in their dealings with holdout Eric Dickerson. To get him now, they will have to find a way to back down without seeming to back down--if, that is, they intend to save face.

Dickerson isn't likely to return under the terms of an inadequate contract, one he reluctantly agreed to in the first place simply because he wanted to play in the NFL instead of the USFL.

Dickerson is the Ram team. That has been made even clearer this summer than it was last season, when he gained 2,105 yards.

It's hard to believe that the club would rather score points against Dickerson than against its opponents.

The sanctity of contracts, as mentioned by the Rams in the Dickerson case, is often trampled upon in football.

Owners of pro teams and presidents of universities break contracts repeatedly--whenever, for example, it suits them to fire coaches.

If there is time remaining on a contract, the coach is usually paid off. But normally, he doesn't want a payoff. He wants to be paid for coaching.

Written or oral, however, football contracts seem to be made to be broken, as many Ram coaches have learned. The Rams hold the NFL record for most coaches fired.

The pressure on Ram quarterback Dieter Brock this year is unlike that on any other rookie in pro football.

At 34, he's being told to deliver immediately--although quarterbacks from Canada don't normally do so in the NFL.

His problem is that as a rookie, he is looking at NFL defenses for the first time. The key for Brock isn't his ability to throw the ball far and straight. On a drill field, he does that well enough. The key is whether he can learn to read NFL defenses in time to be effective this season.

Minnesota's Bud Grant, who last year missed the life style of an NFL coach, isn't entirely happy to be on the job again.

In his haste to return, at $500,000 a year, Grant apparently forgot some of the things that had driven him into retirement.

Last week, somewhat bitterly, he said: "Nothing has changed--even the officiating."

Grant has been an NFL leader in complaints filed against officials.

The Metrodome, where the Vikings play in Minneapolis, is also bugging him again.

Minnesota running back Allen Rice said after last week's game: "It (the field) is like slime."

Grant agreed. "The (stadium) commission owes the players an apology," he said.

The healthiest good team wins the championship in a typical NFL season, and Raider executive Al LoCasale predicts that injuries will play an even more decisive role this season.

"When the roster limit was 49 (last year), you might survive a few injuries," he said. "The new 45-man limit means you get into trouble quicker."

After winning the 1981 championship, the San Francisco 49ers fell out of contention a year later in the strike-interrupted season and failed to contend. After winning again seven months ago, will they follow the same unhappy pattern this season?

Former Ram Norb Hecker, a veteran NFL coach now with the 49ers, thinks they have made a more mature adjustment this time.

"There are two reasons why we have a better chance to repeat now," Hecker said. "First, in the off-season, our veterans worked as hard as if we'd finished in the cellar. Ronnie Lott and those guys were out here working out two or three times a week.

"Second, we have excellent backup people this year. We won the first Super Bowl with some outstanding first-stringers who were injured the next season. This year, our backups would be playing for most teams."

Coach Bill Walsh said: "I don't find myself thinking in those terms (of another championship). I'm thinking about Minnesota (opening day). Each game in the NFL is an entity in itself, a challenge in itself. We're setting no goals this year except to beat Minnesota."

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