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NFL NOTES : Jets Headed in Direction of No. 1 Draft Pick

NEWSDAY

If the next National Football League draft were held now, the New York Jets would hold in their hands the No. 1 pick, which is something that never happened even when the team was called the Titans.

Joe Namath? He was the fourth overall pick of the 1965 American Football League draft. If form holds, this would be the Jets’ first “first.”

It’s a long season, but the Jets (1-6) may be down to it. The Dallas Cowboys (0-7) forfeited their No. 1 pick to take quarterback Steve Walsh in the supplemental draft in July. The Detroit Lions also are 1-6, but the Jets would choose first based on strength of schedule, which is the tie-breaker in these matters.

Four other teams could sink as low as the Jets and Lions, including the 2-5 Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers and the 3-4 Phoenix Cardinals, who have a ton of injuries.

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The last time the Jets drafted so high was in 1980, when they traded up for the No. 2 pick of the draft. The player they wanted was USC tackle Anthony Munoz, who has set the standard at the position since he joined the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Jets were prevented from taking him, former coach Walt Michaels has said, because team physician James Nicholas failed Munozm on the physical exam because he had undergone reconstructive knee surgery. Instead, the Jets settled for Texas wide receiver Johnny “Lam” Jones, which did not turn out well.

But back to the Jets’ future and the “awesome responsibility” of picking No. 1. It’s just the Jets’ luck to be very bad in a year when the college crop is considered lean. And guess what? The one true blue-chip player in the collective opinion of the scouting community, Penn State running back Blair Thomas, is coming off reconstructive knee surgery.

If it sounds as if Thomas could be the next Munoz-style Jets reject, you’ve got the picture. Joel Buchsbaum, the draft maven for Pro Football Weekly, still rates Thomas as the top prospect. “Blair Thomas has run about 4.42 in the 40-yard dash,” Buchsbaum said. “In the last two games, it looks like he’s back to his old form. The only problem is that he was so brilliant before the injury that you expect miracles on every play.”

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The strongest positions in the draft should be running back and linebacker, but after Thomas, there are no so-called “prototype” players. “It’s the worst year to be up there drafting high,” Buchsbaum said.

There have been rumors that West Virginia quarterback Major Harris, Florida running back Emmitt Smith and, possibly, Tennessee running back Reggie Cobb all may come out early for the draft. But all have drawbacks that could keep them from becoming the top pick.

Here are some names to watch from Buchsbaum for all you draftniks, and in the case of Jets fans, this guessing game is bound to be more entertaining than the rest of the season:

Running back -- Blair Thomas, Penn State; Darrell Thompson, Minnesota; Anthony Thompson, Indiana.

Outside linebacker -- James Francis, Baylor; Andre Collins, Penn State; Aaron Wallace, Texas A&M; Bobby Houston, North Carolina State.

Inside linebacker -- Percy Snow, Michigan State.

Defensive end -- Renaldo Turnbull, West Virginia; Jeff Alm, Notre Dame.

Wide receiver -- Reggie Rembert, West Virginia; Rob Moore, Syracuse.

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Offensive tackle -- Glenn Parker, Arizona; Richmond Webb, Texas A&M.;

The 49ers-Patriots game Sunday at Stanford Stadium attracted an estimated crowd of 75,000 fans eager to celebrate life again after a grim confrontation with death resulting from the earthquake that shook the Bay Area Oct. 17.

But on the second play of the game, 49ers free safety Jeff Fuller suffered a neck injury that left his right arm partially paralyzed in a collision with Patriots running back John Stephens.

The scene on the field at the time of the injury served as a reminder of the earthquake rather than an escape. Medical attendants unscrewed Fuller’s facemask from his helmet and administered oxygen and attached an IV as he lay motionless.

“You think about all that’s happened this week, and then, you see your buddy go down with eyes as big as golf balls,” running back Harry Sydney said.

Fortunately, Fuller’s injury isn’t as serious as originally feared. He was moved out of intensive care Tuesday at Stanford Medical Center. But the muscles on the right side of Fuller’s neck are torn, and it’s feared some nerve endings in his fifth and sixth vertebrae may be torn, in which case he never would regain the full use of his right arm. Two of his transverse processes, the wing-shaped part of the vertebrae, are fractured but will mend, and Fuller has regained some movement in his right arm and fingers.

“He has an incredibly positive attitude toward his injury,” Dr. James Klint said. “He was very realistic. We had some private things we talked about.”

Now, residents of the Bay Area have one more survivor to care about, and they certainly showed they cared about the earthquake victims. Some luxury-box patrons donated their refunds from the 49ers to the San Francisco Earthquake Relief Fund. A portion of the proceeds from the 20,000 extra tickets the 49ers had available to sell as a result of moving from Candlestick Park to Stanford went to the fund, and club owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. made a sizable contribution.

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Revenue from the sale of game programs went to the American Red Cross, and the 49ers’ players were planning to make a contribution of at least $20,000 to the Red Cross. NFL Charities also made a donation of approximately six figures to the relief fund.

Around the league

--The Cowboys’ trading frenzy has left them with 19 picks in the first three rounds of the draft over the next three years, and owner Jerry Jones said, “And we haven’t even traded Steve Walsh yet.” Jones also indicated he offered running back Herschel Walker to the Philadelphia Eagles straight up for defensive end Reggie White and was turned down before trading Walker to the Vikings.

--49ers cornerback Tim McKyer is back on the active roster after serving three games of a four-game suspension for insubordination, but his wallet is lighter by about $93,000 in lost wages.

--The Dolphins lost running back Troy Stradford (knee) for the season, and running back Marc Logan (knee) may go on injured reserve, but No. 1 pick Sammie Smith (44 carries, 131 yards) says he is 90 percent recovered from a sprained ankle and is expected to start Sunday in Buffalo. Smith’s backup is Nuu Faaola.

--The World League of American Football announced Tuesday it will stage an invitation-only tryout Saturday at Hofstra as part of the selection process to determine 96 American players who will be assigned to European teams when the league begins play in 1991.

Audibles: Reflecting on free safety Jeff Fuller’s severe neck injury in the wake of the earthquake, 49ers quarterback Steve Young said, “It was another sobering blow. It seemed like it went along with what had been happening during the week.”


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