No Ordinary Joe, Montana Steals Eyes, Hearts Of Chiefs

RIVER FALLS, Wis. - Just fine, thank you.

In fact, probably better than fine.

If halfway grades were passed out during a training camp, quarterback Joe Montana would be on schedule for his Phi Beta Kappa key.

His arm has been strong and capable of drilling the ball into a receiver's gut.

He has captured the hearts of his teammates, ignoring his celebrity as much as possible.

Montana's comeback with the Kansas City Chiefs is generating excitement unmatched in football. So far, all he has done is throw passes against skeleton pass coverages. He probably won't play in the Chiefs' first preseason game, tonight against Green Bay in Milwaukee.

But it is clear that the Montana leading the Chiefs into 1993 closely resembles the quarterback who guided the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles.

His durability has yet to be tested. But if everything holds together, his play appears not to have diminished since his last full season: 1990, when he won the league's MVP award and led the 49ers to the NFC championship game.

"A couple of things are clear-cut," said Paul Hackett, the Chiefs' offensive coordinator, who coached Montana with the 49ers during 1983-85. "He's stronger than I remember. I see more zip on the ball.

"His foot speed has really diminished, but I still see good movement in the pocket. He's still quick, and his niftiness is still there. His mind for the game and his enthusiasm for the challenge are absolutely wonderful."

But 19 days into camp, his arm "probably feels the best it has felt at this time of year for a long time," Montana said this week.

Certainly some teammates were awed by the presence of arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. That was quickly defused by safety Bennie Thompson. He stole Montana's underwear the first day of practice. The quarterback reciprocated the following day.