WEST / Denver's Optimism Is Well Guarded

As if the Patriots need any more incentive after losing 10 in a row to Denver, two years ago in the closing minutes of the Broncos' 34-8 victory, Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe decided to have some fun.

"President!" Sharpe yelled into a sideline telephone. "We need the National Guard! We need as many men as you can spare because we are killing the Patriots! So call the dogs off! Send the National Guard, please! They need emergency help! Please! Help!"

In their last three meetings, Denver has outscored New England, 105-24.

"To play at home against the Patriots, we've had a lot of success against them," Bronco cornerback Darrien Gordon said. "I think it'll just continue."

Surprise, surprise. Noted Raider laggard Chester McGlockton, who transferred to Kansas City during the off-season, might not be ready to play his old team. Listed as doubtful, he hasn't practiced because of treatment for a back injury.

"Come Sunday night, I'm sure he'll be trying to kill me," said Raider wide receiver Tim Brown, flashing true Raider paranoia.

CENTRAL / This Hand-Me-Down Gets Shot at Steelers

Former Steeler cornerback Rod Woodson, one of that team's all-time great players, was the weak link in the 49ers' defensive unit last year. Now he's in Baltimore, wearing a big target and about to play Pittsburgh for the first time since leaving.

The Steelers made no move to keep him two years ago, after he had hurt his knee, and Pittsburgh General Manager Tom Donahoe was downright disrespectful in the off-season when asked if the team might bring him back.

Said Donahoe, "We're not the Salvation Army."

Woodson now on Donahoe: "I don't dislike him as a person . . . he's done some good things in this league. But I don't approve of the way he's criticized former Steelers for going out, trying to make the most money they can. This past year, he had the opportunity to go to Seattle [as general manager] to make more money. He went out for a visit, then came back and got a pay raise.

"He believes players are expendable. You can't keep losing Pro Bowler, Pro Bowler, Pro Bowler every year. Eventually, it catches up with you."

There has been a lot of sentiment for picking Jacksonville to win this year's Super Bowl, but quarterback Mark Brunell isn't much for prognostication.

"It's stupid," he said. "Why are we talking Super Bowl? It's ridiculous."

Geez, lighten up.

EAST / Coryatt's Statistics Look Painful to Colts

The Indianapolis Colts paid linebacker Quentin Coryatt $19.5 million during his tenure with the team and received 8 1/2 sacks.

The Colts cut Coryatt this week, further evidence that they seem hellbent on losing every year. In 1992 they had three No. 1 picks, and all three are gone. Defensive lineman Steve Emtman left three years ago because of injuries, cornerback Ashley Ambrose signed as a free agent with Cincinnati a year ago, and now Coryatt is gone.

Why didn't Coryatt make it big? Most believe he would not play in pain. "I'm probably his worst critic because I tell him, day in and day out, that we need him," linebacker Jeff Herrod said. "I say, 'Hey, I've got a fractured wrist, I'm playing and I'm 32.' "

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