On the day following Thanksgiving, Charles (Too Mean) Martin sat in his Green Bay, Wis., apartment, trying to relax. But as soon as the Packer nose-tackle would flop his 6'4", 282-pound body into a comfortable position, up would pop another mental replay.
"I can't shut myself out of my own mind," said Martin, who was suspended for two games by commissioner Pete Rozelle for one of the most blatant cheap shots in NFL history. "I pick up the paper, there I am. I turn on the TV, there I am. What I did was really terrible. I'm sorry. I won't ever do it again. But everybody's making me out to be a major criminal, like I should be put in prison."
After Packer cornerback Mark Lee intercepted a Jim McMahon pass in the second quarter of the Nov. 23 game against Chicago, Martin grabbed McMahon from behind and slammed the Bears quarterback into the turf. McMahon, who had missed the previous three games because of a sore throwing (right) shoulder, landed on that shoulder and his back. An examination afterward revealed a tear of the rotator cuff, though McMahon says there is no way to prove that Martin's hit caused the damage. McMahon will undergo surgery on Dec. 16 and miss the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.
Martin's suspension—he appealed it—means he would forfeit two sixteenths of his $115,000 base salary, or $14,375. McMahon said Rozelle's suspension was too lenient and should have been for the rest of the season.
McMahon picked up support from the Tampa Bay Bucs. Coach Leeman Bennett said it was his "gut feeling" that Martin's suspension should have been longer. Bucs linebacker Scot Brantley said Martin's hit was a "flagrant violation," and he added, "That kind of stuff has got to go in this league."
The 27-year-old Martin, who got his nickname for his aggressive play in high school, came to the Packers in 1984 from Birmingham of the USFL.
Martin is stunned and worried by the McMahon incident. "I've apologized, but it doesn't seem to matter," he said. "I'm a marked man. What I did will turn the players in the league against me."
They call the NFC Central the Black and Blue Division. And the Bears aren't exactly choirboys. Says Mike Singletary, the Bears All-Pro linebacker, "I'm embarrassed by some of the flagrant things we do. We aren't so pure."
From day one, Packer-Bear games—the first game was played in 1921—have tended to be slugfests. Last season the rivalry intensified. In the first meeting, a Monday night game on Oct. 21 at Soldier Field, coach Mike Ditka used William Perry in the backfield. The Fridge put the finishing touches on a 23-7 humiliation of the Packers by scoring his first TD.
In that game, after Green Bay's Lynn Dickey threw an interception in the first half, Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael chased the Packer quarterback and gave him a couple of extra shots to the head. In the rematch, won 16-10 by the Bears, there were seven personal fouls overall.