Perkins wasn't as impressed with the Snake this Halloween. He was still seething after having chewed out the Bucs two days earlier for not having, in his words, a businesslike attitude. So, when the Snake showed up, Perkins screamed, "Get off my field!"
"But I'm the Snake," said DeBerg.
"I don't care who you are," Perkins yelled, pretending not to recognize his quarterback. "Get off my field!"
But when practice was over, Perkins smiled at DeBerg in the locker room. The next night, on the plane ride home from a 23-17 victory over Green Bay, DeBerg put on his old-man mask and pretended to be an aging player who had sneaked onto the Bucs' charter. Perkins roared with laughter. "What can I say?" DeBerg says. "I gotta be me."
Being DeBerg also means calling off-the-wall audibles. At some point every December he steps to the line of scrimmage and barks, "Red! Merry Christmas! Red! Merry Christmas!" Against the New York Jets in 1984, he poked fun at Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau, who had been convicted of assault after a fight at Studio 54, a Manhattan disco. "Green! Studio 54!" DeBerg yelled. "Green! Studio 54!"
DeBerg also knows when to get serious. Does any other NFL quarterback have as grueling a schedule? On Monday, which is typically a light day of jogging, stretching and physical therapy for most clubs, DeBerg puts in eight hours of weightlifting, running and reviewing tapes of the upcoming opponent. While there's no physical work on Tuesday, DeBerg spends the morning in the office watching more tapes. At that time DeBerg draws up several plays for the game plan that Perkins will later devise.
On Wednesday he's at practice from 7:30 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. He begins with two hours on the weights, followed by four hours of meetings, a 3�-hour workout with the team and a three-hour quarterback session. Lunch and dinner are served on the premises.
DeBerg gets a break on Thursdays—sort of. He's home at seven. Then it's off to the bedroom to analyze Perkins's game plan. On Friday and Saturday, DeBerg memorizes each player's responsibility on every play and predicts how successful each play will be. On the way to road games, he roams the aisles of the plane, quizzing receivers on pass routes and defensive coverages. "I make up a priority list with my favorite plays," he says. "I tell the coaches the plays I don't have much confidence in and those I don't want called."
Perkins listens. "Steve is so smart, he's a coach on the field," says Perkins. "He's a football guy. Football is a very, very big part of his life. He's obsessed with the game."
An entire bookshelf in DeBerg's den is taken up by playbooks and game plans he has accumulated in his career. He has scores of notebooks filled with pointers from a succession of coaches. Game films are piled in a cupboard. During one off-season DeBerg changed his footwork by studying reels of Cincinnati Bengal quarterback Ken Anderson. Another year he speeded up his release after scrutinizing that of Miami Dolphin Dan Marino. Next to his bed, DeBerg keeps a pad of paper and a pen, just in case he has a brainstorm. "I've thought of ways to beat pass coverages in the middle of the night," he says.