NFL underdogs make their mark in first week

By on September 26, 2002

In an opening week filled with wild finishes and memorable moments, two former afterthoughts proved that they still belong in the NFL.

Robert Edwards caught one touchdown pass and ran for another in helping the Miami Dolphins trounce the Detroit Lions 49-21 in their home opener, while backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb threw for 326 yards ad three touchdowns, leading the Cleveland Browns to a near upset of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The fact that Edwards and Holcomb put up such solid numbers is amazing. The fact that neither of them have any business being on a football field is astounding.

“When Edwards got hurt in 1998 I thought it was all over for him,” said junior SGA Representative Dan Looney. “I liked him, but you can’t keep an injured guy and pay him in the NFL.”

After running for over 1,000 yards during an impressive rookie campaign with New England in 1998, Edwards destroyed his left knee during a beach football game before the 1999 Pro Bowl, landing awkwardly after leaping to catch a pass. Doctors said there was a strong chance of permanent leg damage.

“I was told that my career was definitely over,” said Edwards in a recent interview with ESPN.com. “They said I might not be able to walk without a cane.”

Edwards rehabbed tirelessly, earning a tryout with his old team. The Patriots cut him after just two practices, and he sat out the season again. After last year, he signed on with the Dolphins and despite groin problems, has earned a spot as a backup running back in Miami. Edwards is confident that last week was just the beginning.

“I think I’m capable of doing that every week as long as I stay healthy,” said Edwards in his ESPN.com interview. “It’s a huge step.”

Unlike Edwards, Holcomb has never had to deal with such injury problems. He barely got a chance to play until last Sunday.

Drafted in 1997 by the Indianapolis Colts, Holcomb was one of three starting quarterbacks during the abysmal 1997 season that saw the Colts wind up with the number one pick in the draft. After Peyton Manning was selected with that pick, Holcomb was never going to see any playing time.

“Not only is Manning a brilliant quarterback, but playing behind an underrated offensive line keeps him from taking too many hits, which allows him to be the workhorse that he is,” said Assistant Student Center Director Ed Kovacs.

Holcomb sat while Manning played entire seasons without missing a play, and eventually signed with the Browns prior to last season. Figuring to be stuck once again, this time behind Tim Couch, fate stepped in when Couch tore scar tissue in his elbow during the preseason. With Couch out for the opener, Holcomb made only his second start in six years, completing 27 of 39 passes.

“I think his performance definitely put [Coach] Butch Davis in a corner,” said Chiefs fan Ryan Jones. “In the past, he’s been able to simply play Tim Couch because Cleveland hasn’t had anyone else. This time, it’s different.”

Any quarterback wants the ball, but Holcomb knows that his stellar performance does not guarantee any additional starting time, with Couch tirelessly rehabbing in hopes of being ready for Week Two.

“It’s tough,” said Holcomb on www.clevelandbrowns.com. “I’m a competitive person and I want to play, but my situation is my situation…I’m the backup to Tim Couch.”

Just like Couch, Edwards himself is a backup to a star player in Ricky Williams, but even though both men are not in the spotlight on their respective teams, their performances in week one made the NFL and its fans take notice and realize they are both still around.

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