Cleveland Fans Reeling From Rudd's Toss

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Football fans around here are accustomed to having their hearts broken by the Browns. They've survived The Drive, The Fumble and The Move.

Now, they're dealing with more pain following a 40-39 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. And this time it was inflicted by one of Cleveland's own -- Browns linebacker Dwayne Rudd.

That's Rudd, as in Mudd.

"This guy stinks," Dominic Smith, of Garfield Heights, said Monday while downtown as he pointed to a newspaper photograph of Rudd. "Dwayne Rudd needs to be cut because that was a stupid, stupid mistake. I have nothing against the refs. They called the game like it's supposed to be called. It's the players who made stupid mistakes."

The day after Rudd inexplicably threw his helmet, and in the process threw away a sure season-opening win for Cleveland, fans were still shaking their heads following yet another unbelievable loss in a town that's seen its share.

Rudd, convinced that Sunday's game had ended when he tackled Chiefs quarterback Trent Green, yanked off his helmet and pounded his chest in celebration.

But with his back to the play, Rudd couldn't see Green alertly flip the ball to offensive tackle John Tait, who lumbered 28 yards to Cleveland's 25.

Rudd was then flagged for taking off his helmet and throwing it, and the ball was moved halfway to the goal line -- NFL games cannot end on a defensive penalty -- for Kansas City's Morten Anderson, who kicked his game-winning, 30-yard field goal with 0:00 showing on the clock.

"I was stunned, then I was sick. Then I was stunned again," said Tom Lockshin of Canton, who watched the game on television. Rudd's gaffe was replayed countless times on local TV Sunday night and Monday morning.

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer's frontpage headline read: "Lost and Confused" and showed a shot of a disbelieving Rudd -- his helmet at his feet -- holding his hands up as if to say, "What happened?"

The paper's sports section blared: "Helmet Off, Dunce Cap On." Just when Browns fans thought they'd seen it all, Rudd showed them they hadn't.

"Well, they found a new way to lose," said Robert McDonnell of Cleveland. "Rudd wasn't very intelligent. He should have watched to see the play was still going on."

Browns fans will now file Rudd's boneheaded play in their memory banks alongside some other bizarre moments and losses in Cleveland sports history.

The Helmet joins The Drive, The Fumble, The Beer Night Riot at Cleveland Stadium and last season's bottle-throwing debacle at the Browns final home game -- to name a few.

"It was the weirdest outcome of a game I'd ever seen in my life," said David Drucker of Lyndhurst, who attended the game. "I'd like to blame the refs and say they should have swallowed the whistle. But they did the same thing to Kansas City earlier.

"That's just the way it goes in Cleveland, Ohio."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)