March 19, 1974

By Ed Comerford

WFL Gets Down to Business

Who's going to fill those brand new uniforms in the World Football League?

Maybe a lot of Jets, says defensive tackle John Elliott, who has left the Jets to play for the New York Stars this year.

Maybe a lot of Giants, says Richmond Flowers, who will leave the Giants next year to play for the Honolulu Hawaiians.

They were on hand yesterday in the ballroom of a midtown hotel as the WFL began its draft of players from the established National Football League and the Canadian Football League. Most of the draftees are for 1975 delivery, like Flowers, because, the new league will not challenge the option clause in NFL contracts. But some can jump right away because they played out their option last season. That's the case with Elliott, whose signing by the Stars was announced after the draft. Technically, Elliott becomes a free agent May 1.

It may be hard to take seriously a league that offers exotic team names like Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Bell, Portland Storm and Southern California Sun. Nevertheless, the draft did not look like a grab for cheap headlines. "You can tell they're drafting people they know they have a chance to get," Flowers said.

The surprise first pick was Giants' running back Charlie Evans, by Washington. After that the first of 40-rounds went:

Toronto - Miami back Larry Csonka

Philadelphia - San Diego linebacker Tim Rossovich

Portland - New England quarterback Jim Plunkett

Florida - New Orleans back Virgil Robinson

Detroit - Jets linebacker Mike Taylor

Birmingham - British Columbia (Canadian Football League) back Johnny Musso

Southern California - LA Rams guard Tom Mack

Chicago - Green Bay back John Brockington

Houston - Kansas City quarterback Pete Beathard

Hawaiians - San Francisco tight end Ted Kwalick

New York - Jets quarterback Joe Namath

The early rounds were actually a formality, since each team had staked out a secret 11-man "negotiation list" in advance.

Namath, despite his fragile knees, is the kind of name the league needs for TV ratings. What chance do the Stars have of signing him for 1975 delivery?

Dusty Rhodes, the female assistant general manager of the Stars said, "We've talked to all the players on our negotiation list except Namath. We have talked to his agent, Jim Walsh, who definitely indicated interest. We have not gotten to figures but we know we would have to pay him more than the Jets [an estimated $250,000 a year]. Money is not the problem. We wouldn't have drafted Joe if we didn't think we had a chance to sign him."

"I think there's a chance," Elliott said. "Joe said himself he would play out his option. That means he's interested. I'd love to wind up playing with him again. He's still a good quarterback."

After seven years with the Jets, Elliott said he has "kind of soured" on their management. "Weeb Ewbank knew I was talking to this league, but he never made me a substantial counter-offer. And a lot of other guys are sour on the Jets."

How many? "About 40 guys," he said. "I talked to Randy Rasmussen and Dave Herman [veteran guards] this morning. They wished me luck and said they wished they had enough foresight to be in my shoes. In fact, a lot of players all through the NFL are very dissatisfied."

Flowers, a five-year veteran with the Giants, said there were a lot of malcontents in that camp too.

"If things had remained the way they were, there could have been 47 Giants in this league next year," he said. "There was a real turmoil last season, but I see no reason to elaborate on that." He said the changes of coaches from Alex Webster to Bill Arnsbarger might make a difference.

He thinks Evans will sign with the WFL. "It's too bad he's not here so he could stand on the table and crow." Evans could not be reached yesterday but a Washington spokesman said the Ambassadors expect to sign him this week.

Even though he is defecting to the WFL, Flowers thinks the Giants will have him in the lineup in the 1974 season. "If they kept me on the bench," he said, it would be kind of an expensive way to teach me a lesson. I'd be glad to take my check to the bank. That's not good business." If the Giants cut him he can join Honolulu. "The way I look at it I can't lose. Whatever happens," he said.

With most of yesterday's draftees tabbed for 1975 delivery - if ever - the WFL's major problem may be surviving the 1974 season. Elliott expects it to be wild; "Everybody out there busting their chops, a lot of kids doing crazy things to impress the coach."

But the WFL delivered one blue chip rookie at yesterday's meeting. The Toronto Northmen unveiled Danny White, from Arizona State. He was the first quarterback picked in the NFL draft, by Dallas in the third round.

"The money was a substantial factor," White said, "but the chance to play right away was more important. At Dallas I would have been on the bench for two years anyway. There's a challenge here. In a sense, everybody in the World Football League is a rookie."