"I'm 34 years old. I'm at the end of my career. I only have one year left on my contract. I'm paid $31,000 a game because I busted my butt. Any money I lose, I'll never make up."
As the elder statesman of America's Second Team, White is allowed to skip morning meetings. He arrives in time for a catered lunch. During practice he instructs defensive linemen and plays center. "From now on, when they talk about Randy White, they'll list all his accolades, but right after that you've got to put 'scab,' " says Rohrer. " Randy White is a scab for the rest of his life."
If he's forced to, White says that he'll resign as a team captain. He hopes it doesn't come to that. "It was a difficult decision for me," he says. "My teammates feel like I betrayed them. If there is animosity toward me when the strike ends, I'll understand. If guys go for my knees on the field, I can handle it. I always have."
He pauses. "That's just the way it will have to be," he says.
The Cowboys' practice field, 4 p.m. Twenty-nine of the 46 alternate players went through the Dallas rookie training camp in July. Right now the strongest positions are quarterback and receiver. The offensive line, which has only five players, is pathetic. "I can't imagine trying to play these games with players who haven't been in our system," says coach Tom Landry, who surveys the action from atop a three-story-high platform. He makes notes on a clipboard and directs two videotape cameramen.
By week's end more than 400 hopefuls have phoned the Cowboys, offering their services on the field. Bill Westfall, a Cowboy security guard, turns away a truck driver who shows up at the gate to the team's facility, but not before the fellow rips open his shirt and declares, "Look at this body! And I don't even lift weights." But the Cowboys do sign receiver Clay Pickering, who has bumped around the NFL since 1984 without ever catching a pass and has worked most recently as a glazier in New York. They also pluck kicker Tom Dixon, who led the CFL in scoring last year for the Edmonton Eskimos, from an island off Western Canada, where he was working in his father's lumberyard.
"You can't help but get caught up in the novelty of this," says Paul Hackett, the Cowboys' pass-offense coordinator. Hackett predicts scab ball will look like the old AFL games—lots of wide-open play. "These teams won't be in the ballpark of the NFL," says Hackett, "but they don't have to be. The kids are so enthusiastic—it's their chance at a dream. They're fun to coach."
No player is more enthusiastic than Kevin Sweeney, the former Fresno State quarterback who was Dallas's seventh-round pick last spring. Cut on Sept. 7, Sweeney was considering retiring from football. Real estate beckoned. So did five NFL teams when the strike broke out. "I thought it was morally wrong to cross a picket line," Sweeney says. "My grandfathers were coal miners in Butte, Mont. But when they went on strike, it was to put food on the table. This is different. These guys aren't laborers.
"I've never felt this secure. You do your best, and if you throw it in the dirt, you throw it in the dirt. They can't cut us. So what if the strike ends and we are gone tomorrow. We got a second chance. Heck, last week I was out of work, watching Leave It to Beaver reruns. Now I'm playing quarterback for the Cowboys."