Tues, Aug. 5: Rossow: Injury bug a real pain for Holecek

Tues, Aug. 5: Rossow: Injury bug a real pain for Holecek

   Training camp nearly is a month old. The crutches still are collecting dust in his closet. And John Holecek has knocked on so much wood his knuckles are sore.

   "No injuries yet," the former Illini linebacker said. "I don''t want to worry about it, but sometimes I can''t get it out of my head. It''s hard to forget about."

   The Buffalo Bills have completed two preseason games and Holecek has yet to visit the doctor''s office. He made two tackles in Saturday''s loss to the Chicago Bears (ordinary) and walked off the field on his own (extraordinary).

   Usually a golf cart drops by to pick him up.

   "I don''t sit around, saying I''m the unluckiest guy in the world or anything like that," Holecek said. "I try not to dwell on it."

   Of all the former Illini making National Football League comebacks this summer, Holecek is facing some of the longest odds.

   Jeff George, idle since chewing out his coach in Atlanta on national television early last season, has found safe haven in Oakland, where he has Daryle Lamonica''s number if not attitude. Henry Jones, who broke his leg last October, is starting again in Buffalo. Even Darrick Brownlow, released by the Washington Redskins last year, has a good shot at making the Bears.

Biding his time

   Meanwhile, Holecek waits for a decision from the Bills.

   "I don''t know if I can get past the stigma attached to me because of my injuries," he said. "I''m going to be looked as someone with a checkered past."

   It''s been four years since Holecek made it through September in one piece.

   As a senior at the UI, Holecek sprained an ankle in a season-opening loss to Washington State.

   As a rookie with the Bills, he injured a hamstring in minicamp and spent the first 12 weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list.

   Last Aug. 2, he tore a knee ligament in Buffalo''s exhibition opener and missed the entire season.

   Now he''s healthy. But are the Bills willing to risk guaranteed money on someone with a fragile track record?

   "I''ve had two years to show myself and haven''t been able to do it," he said. "They don''t have to waste any more time on me if they don''t want to. That''s fair."

   He has a backup plan. A finance major at the UI, Holecek began working toward a master''s degree by taking classes last year at Canisius. If the Bills don''t want him, perhaps a Buffalo bank will.

   For now, Holecek prefers football. Playing behind Chris Spielman at an inside linebacker spot, Holecek has looked sharp in the preseason (he had five tackles in Buffalo''s loss at Denver).

   The Bills play two more games before they must reduce their roster for the first time on Aug. 19.

   "The hard part of all of this is seeing guys who you think you''re better than playing and being successful," Holecek said. "Having to sit and watch and wonder is the worst."

Around the league

    Brownlow''s emergence in Chicago could cost Dana Howard a spot with the Bears.

   Coach Dave Wannstedt, who became familiar with Brownlow in Dallas, signed the free agent July 19 to bolster Chicago''s special teams. Trouble is Brownlow and Howard both are listed at inside linebacker behind Bryan Cox, and Wannstedt probably will keep just one backup.

   Brownlow''s edge is versatility. Howard''s edge is youth.

    After 12 years in coaching, former Illini offensive coordinator Greg Landry is out of football. Landry, let go by the Detroit Lions after Wayne Fontes was fired, has entered private business in suburban Detroit.

    Jasper Strong, who failed in his first NFL tryout with the then-Houston Oilers, has hooked up with the Miami Dolphins, who are thin at receiver. Strong did not catch a pass in Monday''s nationally televised game against the Broncos in Mexico City.

    Ty Douthard enjoyed an impressive debut but remains a long shot to make the Bengals. Douthard rushed for 20 yards and caught a pass in Cincinnati''s 20-16 loss to Indianapolis on Friday.

   Cincinnati will keep five running backs, and four are set: Ki-Jana Carter, Corey Dillon, Eric Bieniemy and Brian Milne. Douthard must beat Jeff Cothran and Scottie Graham.

Jim Rossow is sports editor of The News-Gazette.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports