Perkins in successful debut at Tampa Bay. Coach will bring Testaverde along slowly; Tomczak quiets critics

Ray Perkins, the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has an image to protect. The story is that Perkins could take a scarecrow and make a winning National Football League quarterback out of him. Phil Simms of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants still credits Perkins (his former pro coach) with turning his career around. This quality is also one of the chief reasons Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse lured Ray away from Alabama at the end of last season.

Culverhouse wanted someone who could bring the Bucs' No. 1 draft pick, $8.2 million rookie quarterback Vinny Testaverde, into the warlike atmosphere of the NFL without breaking him. Time was not important, but the long-term results were.

This explains why Perkins put the former Miami University superstar on hold, and why veteran Steve DeBerg started Tampa Bay's opener against the Atlanta Falcons. It also underscores why the Bucs won 48-10, with DeBerg throwing for 333 yards and five touchdowns.

``The difference in this game was Perkins; his game plan was fantastic,'' explained DeBerg, who played his college ball at San Jose State and has been with three teams in an 11-year NFL career.

``We had a lot of receivers open because of the kind of multiple offensive pass patterns that Ray teaches,'' DeBerg added. ``Once those things begin to work for a quarterback, his confidence goes sky high.''

For Testaverde, unless DeBerg is injured the next few months will be a learning experience. He'll work with Perkins and DeBerg on how to read defenses, he'll impersonate the opposing team's QB in practice, and he'll spend hundreds of hours watching game films.

While beating Atlanta isn't exactly like taking honey away from the Chicago Bears, Perkins's disciplined brand of football has already improved the Bucs, who went 12-52 in their last four NFL seasons.

Among other things, Ray has insisted that all his players live in the Tampa Bay area year-round, and that they undergo regular weight checks - a system that appears to have paid dividends already.

For example, center Randy Grimes, who played at 300 pounds last year, is down to a neat 259 this season, and tight end Calvin Magee, who had trouble reaching his full potential at 285 pounds, is now a slim 256.

Explained Perkins to reporters: ``I'm a fairly intense person. I'm also very impatient, because I like to get things done quickly. I drafted a lot of talented kids this year [an NFL-record 20], because I know they'll push our veterans.''

Meanwhile, Testaverde will be getting personal instruction from Perkins in the art of playing quarterback. And somewhere down the line, Vinny may actually begin earning his megabucks. `Doubting Tomczaks' quieted for now

``Monday Night Football,'' even without Howard Cosell to hype it, is still a powerful ratings weapon for the NFL. But it's easy for the fans to lose perspective after what the Chicago Bears did to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in ``TV Showcase One'' of the new season. Chances are the Bears, who won big, 34-19, aren't that good, and the Giants aren't that bad.

What had to please the man in the street was the way Chicago's blue-collar quarterback, Mike Tomczak, subbing for the injured Jim McMahon, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. Actually, there were a lot of doubting Tomczaks on Chicago's side of Soldier Field before game time.

All anyone could seem to remember was that this 24-year-old from Ohio State (where the forward pass has little standing) had never been drafted by an NFL team. What they couldn't remember, or maybe never knew, is that Mike coming in had never lost as the Bears' sub QB - a figure that has now reached 8-0.

Most of the time the Giants played as though they were concerned that the designer tags on their uniforms might get torn or dirty. Before anyone makes too much of this one game, however, it might be well to recall that New York lost to the Dallas Cowboys in its first game last season, and still wound up winning the Super Bowl. Elsewhere around the NFL

Barring legal blocks and tackles (that is, ones that can be made only in the courtroom), the Raiders by 1990 will have left the Los Angeles Coliseum for their new home in Irwindale, the so-called gravel pit capital of world. Irwindale's population is 1,040 - a figure that will obviously go up on game days. Since the Raiders played the final half of last season as though their feet were encased in cement, they should be right at home where the dust meets the musk in California.

Only minutes after Seattle got bombed 40-17 by the Denver Broncos, Seahawk head coach Chuck Knox was telling reporters: ``I've never coached a team that had 40 points scored on it before. I'm used to things going the other way.'' Sorry, Chuck, but in 1978 when you were coaching Buffalo, the Bills were beaten 41-20 by the Cleveland Browns and 45-14 by the New York Jets.

Seating for Super Bowl XXII, scheduled for Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego next Jan. 31, will be expanded from 60,766 to 73,500. Tickets will be priced at an all-time high $100 apiece. The two teams share 40 percent of the tickets, the NFL office gets 20 percent, and the 26 other pro teams divide the rest.

Speculation that Tom Landry, the only head coach the Dallas Cowboys have ever had, will retire at the end of the current season is nothing but froth and bubbles. If you know Landry at all, you know he won't leave a rebuilding job unfinished, meaning a team that can't at least make the playoffs.

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