Sixty players took the Raiders' physical, and none failed. "We handed them a mirror and asked them to breathe on it," said trainer George Anderson. "If they fogged the mirror, they passed."
Sure, scab ball won't be semipro football, a bunch of guys off the street, but it won't be pro football, either. It won't be the caliber of the USFL, which got its share of first-line college prospects. Scab ball will be, well, scab ball. And how do you coach something like this? Said Miami assistant David Shula, who was gearing up for a game with the Giants before last weekend's games were canceled, "We've gone from trying to prepare for Lawrence Taylor to showing people how to line up in the huddle."
"We're keeping it pretty simple," says Raider linebacker coach Sam Gruneisen. "We've asked them to learn each others' names and where they're supposed to stand on the field. We don't want to go too fast, or we'll lose some of them mentally. Of course, we've already lost them physically, or they wouldn't be available."
Raider quarterback coach Larry Kennan says, "I figure this will be a passing league, because anybody who could play defensive back and cover man-to-man is already employed."
Some coaches shrug and say they'll do what they're ordered to do. Some almost sound enthusiastic. Then there's Chicago's Mike Ditka. In an interview after the Bears-Bucs game on Sept. 20, he said, "I'm not strong enough mentally to do what they're asking us to do. I'm going to try."
Then the interviewer, sportscaster Johnny Morris, asked Ditka if the networks and fans would buy scab ball. "Would you?" Ditka said.
"No," said Morris.
"You answered the question," Ditka said. "I'd be hitting a golf ball somewhere." By Thursday he had toned down his remarks. "I don't feel like somebody's pulling the carpet out from under me," he said. "For one day I felt that way. Then I realized life goes on."
On Wednesday and Thursday, life along the picket lines got nasty at times, but no one was injured. The more militant tactics seemed to have a sameness to them, as if the strikers were following a directive. Everyone threw eggs—not tomatoes, cabbages, grapefruits or wallets. Only eggs. A few buses carrying scab ball players into practice facilities were waylaid, and a brief scuffle between a striking player, Chiefs linebacker Jack Del Rio, and a team scout, former All-Pro wide receiver Otis Taylor, broke out in Kansas City. In Buffalo a U.S. Postal Service jeep was denied access to the tunnel leading to Rich Stadium. Quarterback Jim Kelly playfully rocked it, but noseguard Fred Smerlas drove a shoulder into the grill and knocked the jeep back a foot. It was as if the players had been told to do some harassing but no real rough stuff.
Then on Friday the injunctions and restraining orders came down. No more than four pickets at once in Indianapolis and Philly, and only a designated area could be used. The lines melted. On Thursday at least 60 members of other unions had joined some 15 striking Colts in a spirited demonstration. By Friday afternoon only two pickets were in front of Indianapolis's practice facility. By Saturday none was there. The Broncos' picket line had disappeared by Friday. "All of a sudden the place looked like Wall Street at 4 a.m.," said Denver media relations director Jim Saccomano.