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Lloyd Losing Bad-Guy Image

Fri., Oct. 10, 1997

The No. 95 hasn’t changed, and neither has the cold-as-steel glare. Get in Greg Lloyd’s way be it teammate, front-office employee or reporter and he might respond with a vulgarity or a shove.

Nice guy, that Greg Lloyd.

Funny, that’s what is worrying the Pittsburgh Steelers: Greg Lloyd is becoming too nice a guy.

Off the field, he continues to make news, such as by criticizing the Irish for being rude - that’s like Bill Gates getting angry at someone for being rich - or by pushing a Russian journalist innocently standing in the doorway of the Steelers’ locker room.

But, on the field, Lloyd has been something of a pussy cat, hence the Steelers’ anxiety. The five-time Pro Bowl selection and 1995 All-Pro linebacker’s five-game statistics read like the numbers he once produced weekly: one-half sack, 13 unassisted tackles, only one pass deflected.

Actually, Lloyd’s statistics are even worse when compared with those of 1996 Pro Bowl linebacker Levon Kirkland, who has a team-high 44 tackles - including 33 solo, 20 more than Lloyd. Yet Kirkland often comes off the field on thirddown passing situations, and Lloyd almost always stays on.

Lloyd’s statistics also don’t match up to Chad Brown, who had an AFC-leading 14 sacks last season at the outside linebacker position now manned by Lloyd. Brown signed with Seattle during the off-season.

The Steelers didn’t fret over Lloyd’s disappearing act for a few weeks, figuring he would take a while to regain his game after missing nearly all of the 1996 season with a knee injury sustained in the season opener.

But, except for a long fumble return against the Oilers on which he himself fumbled, Lloyd has been almost invisible, rarely making a key tackle or a big play.

Before he was injured, Lloyd often was blocked by two players - usually the tight end and the fullback. Now, teams are assigning him only one blocker.

The Steelers have additional concerns about Lloyd. He is 32, an age when oft-injured players usually begin to see a perceptible dropoff in their play.

Time for the whip?

New England’s Jimmy Hitchcock stood helpless as he was called for defensive holding. Five minutes later, the Patriots cornerback was caught again on a 39-yard pass interference penalty.

Just like that, a close game had turned into a runaway by the Denver Broncos. Hitchcock’s two penalties led to 10 points in the third quarter as New England lost 34-13 Monday night.

“We’ve got to alleviate penalties altogether,” he said. “If we don’t, then we’ll go 8-8.”

Not necessarily.

Last season, Indianapolis had the fewest penalties in the AFC and Jacksonville had the second-most. Yet both made the playoffs as wild-card teams with 9-7 records. And the Colts lost in the first round, while the Jaguars went to the conference championship game where they lost to the Patriots.

The Patriots are 4-1 despite averaging eight penalties for 71 yards.

Coach Pete Carroll calls the penalties “intolerable” and stressed that to his players. But they no longer have Bill Parcells to scare them into correcting the problem.

“Last year we had somebody kind of cracking the whip over our heads,” strong safety Lawyer Milloy said. Carroll “gives us a lot of respect and a lot of room to produce but, at some point, I think that the whip has to come out.”

Around the league

The Washington Redskins signed former Washington State University defensive tackle Don Sasa… . Brett Perriman is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee today - meaning the newly acquired receiver won’t help the Miami Dolphins anytime soon… . St. Louis Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce is doubtful for Sunday’s game at San Francisco because of a hamstring injury.

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