McCallum looks concerned. If he looks weary now, how will he look once the season starts? Has he fallen behind already? "I'll handle it," he says after a moment. "You never know your limits until you have to push yourself."
Otis Wilson emerges from his Mercedes 560 SEL, glittering. He's in his Sunday-morning attire—a Fila warmup jacket, a diamond earring in his left ear, a Rolex on one wrist, a gold bracelet on the other, a nearly blinding wedding band and a diamond pinkie ring. Practically everyone else at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is wearing a numbered T-shirt. There are road races of various lengths being held along Lake Michigan in an event billed as the First Chicago Run for the Zoo. Wilson is there at 9 a.m., doing one of the things he does well and often. He is making an appearance.
"You running today, Otis?" asks a contestant trotting to her starting line. "I run fast, sweetheart," Wilson says, "not far."
He signs a few autographs around his Mercedes—"Watch the fingerprints, please, buddy. I just waxed it yesterday"—and works his way to a sports celebrity tent, where he is making a paid appearance. A bunch of kids and grownups ambles in his wake. You would think—the P.A. announcer mistakenly does—that he was still a member of their beloved Chicago Bears. After grabbing a can of juice, Wilson spends the next hour signing autographs and dispensing charm.
Wilson, an NFL player for nine seasons—and an All-Pro in 1985—is 6'2", 227 pounds and $550,000 a year of snorting, sacking aggression. He is other things, too, and most of them attract attention. He sings with the all-jock Chicago 6 band, and his soulful tones during a recent performance prompted a woman in San Juan to take off her top and throw it at him. He is a dedicated clothes hound who has been known to show up at a Chicago Bulls game in a full-length fur. He is the host of a sports talk show on a Chicago cable-TV station. He is also generous with his time, and he talks a good game of anything.
It doesn't take a couch or a Viennese accent to gain access to Wilson's ego, as the runners flocking to the tent quickly discover. He tosses out words he'll try to catch up to later. You happy to be playing for the Raiders, Otis? "I don't care where I play, sweetheart, so long as the check don't bounce." Make the Bears sorry they didn't sign you, Otis. "I don't need to make them sorry; they already are." Why are you leaving us, Otis? "I'll tell you the truth, sweetheart. It was Mike Ditka."
The main reason for Wilson's departure was something that happened before last season, in an Aug. 22 exhibition 'game at Dallas. As Wilson was making a tackle, a Cowboy offensive lineman fell on Wilson's left knee. Wilson walked off the field, but he didn't play again in that game or for the rest of the year. The diagnosis was a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. After an injury like that, an athlete usually looks for a new career.
Dallas was the site of one of the Bears'—and Wilson's—finest hours, as they stormed to a 44-0 victory in the 11th game of the 1985 season. Wilson and his good friend Dave Duerson, the Bears' strong safety, began to bark as they toppled America's Team, starting a craze of canine yapping that reached a kennellike peak in their 46-10 blowout of New England in Super Bowl XX the following January. This time in Dallas, though, Wilson was the one who heard the dogs. In the locker room at halftime, he said to Duerson, "You watch. I bet you any amount of money I won't be in a Chicago uniform no more."
A week later Dr. Lanny Johnson grafted a tendon from Wilson's left hamstring onto the ruptured ligament. After spending the most miserable month of his life in a cast, with his weight dipping to 210 pounds, Wilson began to work out. He reported to Halas Hall at the Bears" Lake Forest complex almost every day and stayed from nine to five. Later he worked three hours a day three times a week with Ron Russ, the manager of sports medicine for the Centre Club in Libertyville, Ill. In addition to squats and presses and flexes, Wilson strained in an isokinetic torture device called a Cybex, and ran 10- to 12-mph sprints up a 12% grade on a treadmill. Russ says the knee and the hamstring are "95- to 100-percent" healed. "He should be ready without difficulty when the season begins," says Russ.
Even while Wilson rehabilitated his leg under the aegis of the Bears, he believed coach Mike Ditka wanted him off the team. Ditka won't comment on that. According to Wilson, Ditka has never held him in high esteem, labeling him and fellow linebacker Wilber Marshall "the big-mouth bookends." Marshall signed as a free agent last year with the Redskins. "You could see the writing on the wall," Wilson says. "Stevie Wonder could see that writing."