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The Football Fanatic

By O.B. Usmen

COLUMNIST

This was not a good week for starting quarterbacks. Three teams in playoff contention are now looking to their backup quarterbacks to carry them to the playoffs after a series of injuries side-lined some big names.

The Eagles (7-3) will be without Donovan McNabb for six to eight weeks. After breaking his ankle on the third play of the game, McNabb stayed in the game to lead the Eagles to a 38-14 victory over the faltering Cardinals (4-6). Koy Detmer will be asked to shoulder the quarterbacking responsibilities while McNabb recovers.

The Broncos (7-3) had no trouble with Seattle (3-7), winning 31-9. Brian Griese sprained his knee in the third quarter with the score at 10-6. With their starting quarterback hurt, the Broncos stepped it up, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter behind two touchdown passed by Steve Beuerlein. Griese will be out at least a week.

Pittsburgh (5-4-1) didn’t fare as well as the Broncos and the Eagles without their quarterback. They fell 31-23 to the resurgent Titans (6-4). Tommy Maddox suffered a spinal contusion but miraculously left the hospital Monday at near full strength. Oft-maligned Kordell Stewart played well in relief, completing 13 of 17 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. But Stewart’s effort wasn’t enough to contain the Tennessee offense, led by two rushing touchdowns from Eddie George.

The Rams (5-5) pulled back to .500 with a Monday night victory over the Bears (2-8) 21-16. Marc Bulger remained undefeated as the starting quarterback for St. Louis, with a 357-yard effort. Still, Mike Martz has made it clear that Kurt Warner will be starting in next week’s game against Washington (4-6). Martz will have a lot of questions to answer if Warner can’t deliver the team’s sixth straight victory.

Julius Peppers suspended

This past week, Panthers (3-7) defensive end Julius Peppers was suspended for four games for violating the league’s substance policy. Peppers, a strong candidate for rookie of the year, having registered 11 sacks so far, tested positive for ephedrine, a stimulant often found in diet pills. The league made it very clear before the season that ephedrine was a banned substance, and the punishment would be a four-game suspension even for a first time offense.

Many feel that this suspension was overly harsh, but I disagree. Sure, the league doesn’t suspend a player for being caught with illegal drugs, but the fact is ephedrine is a banned substance because it can cause football-related seizures or strokes. What a player does in his personal life is relevant to the NFL only in the image it wants to project, but a player’s health as it is related to playing the game of football is entirely within the jurisdiction of the NFL. I support such harsh sanctions because the NFL doesn’t want to take a chance of something happening on the field of play. This suspension will make everyone check twice before taking a diet supplement, and that accomplishes the NFL’s goal. It is a shame to end Peppers incredible season, but the greater gain is increased safety for the players in the NFL.

Fantasy pick of the week: Mark Brunell, quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Brunell has played solid all season, and should put up big numbers against a suspect Cowboys defense.