As usually happens in these situations, Darrin Nelson was the last to find out he had been traded from the Minnesota Vikings to the Dallas Cowboys as part of the package for Herschel Walker. He was driving to practice when he heard the news on the radio.
Of course, Nelson knew his name had been mentioned in the speculation for a week before the actual deal, but he tried not to pay attention to it. "That upset me more than anything else," Nelson said. "The Vikings should have said something to me. I figured they would tell me if there was any truth to it. What a big mistake. The press knew before we did."
Nelson decided to do something about it. He flew to Dallas and told the 0-6 Cowboys that he couldn't picture himself starting over at the age of 30 in their desperate situation.
"If I were younger, I'd love to stay there," Nelson said. "If I couldn't play for a contender, I told them I at least wanted to go to California, or I would retire. You don't have much control in this business. You can't have a say unless you're older and don't have to play."
Nelson got his wish Tuesday when the Cowboys traded him to San Diego, where he will assume the receiving role out of the backfield previously played by holdout Gary Anderson. Because of conditions related to the Walker deal, the Chargers sent a fifth-round pick in 1990 to the Vikings, who then shipped their sixth-round pick in '90 to the Cowboys, who also keep a second-round pick in 1991 from the Vikings as part of the original deal for Nelson.
Going to San Diego is an improvement over Dallas for the California native, but uprooting his wife, Camilla, and their two boys, ages 5 and 1, will be difficult. Camilla just passed the bar exam in Minnesota and has a job as a special assistant to the state attorney general. Nelson, who was graduated from Stanford with a degree in urban development and environmental planning, owns two retail sports clothing stores and has a job in the marketing department of a financial management company.
"I've lived all my adult life in Minneapolis," Nelson said. "I started a business and built a house here. Now, everything has been turned topsy-turvy. It's a little easier to go to San Diego, but nothing really softens the blow.
"Am I bitter? Oh, sure. The Vikings are considered a Super Bowl team. I had a lot to do with them getting that way. Almost anybody would feel bitter about that."
Everyone wondered how moody Bud Carson, the New York Jets' former defensive coordinator, would react to the pressure of being a head coach the first time things went wrong. The first real test came this week after the Browns lost for the third time in four games to drop to 3-3. Bernie Kosar is in a slump that had the fans at Cleveland Stadium chanting "We want Pagel!" after he threw his career-high fourth interception of the game during a 17-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Carson admitted Sunday he considered replacing Kosar with backup Mike Pagel, but when the QB question came up again Monday, Carson reinforced his commitment to Kosar heading into a Monday night game against the Chicago Bears at Cleveland Stadium. "Bernie's been a great quarterback here, and I intend to stay with him," Carson said. "I don't want to divide this team."
Surprisingly, the Browns' offense, which was considered the strength of the team, has scored only 47 points in the last four games, which ties the Cowboys for worst in the NFL over that stretch. Carson's defense has been magnificent. Obviously concerned about a possible split between the units, Carson backed off from criticizing his offense, saying, "I'm not going to talk about that. I seldom evade a question, but what we need is to get off the damn ground and not point the finger at each other."
Praising Carson's handling of a difficult situation, General Manager Ernie Accorsi said, "I noticed one thing about Bud that the good ones have. He seems to be more agitated when things are going well; he's concerned about players getting lethargic. Now that the fans are booing and the media are asking a million questions, he's more low-key and poised. He calms down."
Both Accorsi and owner Art Modell say there is no pressure on Carson to win big immediately. They are aware the Browns have serious injury problems in the offensive line, and the imprisonment of fullback Kevin Mack on drug-related charges has crippled the running game. Even though offensive coordinator Marc Trestman was hired before Carson, it now has become clear Carson has the green light from above to make whatever changes he wishes.
"Bud has good offensive instincts and philosophies," Accorsi said. "People thought we forced the offense on him. He has the ability to change things; he just hasn't had time because he's been so busy putting in the defense. I do believe he's going to become a better and better head coach. That mind of his will transform our offense."
Around the league
--The Cowboys originally were believed to have until Feb. 1 to make up their minds whether to keep the players they received from the Vikings for Herschel Walker or release them in exchange for draft picks. But one general manager said he was told by the Cowboys that they don't have to make a decision until training camp next summer.
--Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl linebacker John Offerdahl, who was a holdout in the option year of a contract scheduled to pay him $192,500, signed a one-year deal for $500,000 that will pay him a pro-rated $312,500 for the remaining 10 games. Key part of the deal is Offerdahl will be a total free agent at the end of the season, and there likely will be some strong bidders for the run-stuffer.
--The New England Patriots' asking price of high draft picks for quarterback Tony Eason scared off several interested teams.
--Watch out for the Dolphins. They've won three straight after an 0-3 start, the defense is improving, they play a fifth-place schedule and Bills quarterback Jim Kelly still will be on the injured list when the Dolphins go to Buffalo in Week 8.
--Audibles: Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Carl Peterson, commenting on a remark by Vikings General Manager Mike Lynn that the Herschel Walker deal would be a bad one if the Vikings don't win a Super Bowl in the next two seasons: "When you sincerely believe you're one player away and you don't get there, then you have to stand up and say it was a bad trade. I appreciate Mike's frankness in saying that now."