Some members of the offense would no doubt settle for less domesticity. Last year, for instance, after a game with the Detroit Lions, the Lions were quoted in TIME as saying, "Don Paul is the dirtiest player in football."
This description surprised Paul.
"I can't imagine why they would say that," he said in a tone suggesting injured feelings. "I'm sure it wasn't because I gave Leon Hart a few elbows as he ran down for passes. I've been doing that to him for years and he's never complained. He probably got sore at an incident in the second quarter. I had given him a little jab with my elbow, and he said to me, 'If you do that once more, I'm going to knock your brains out.'
"Having now been threatened by a man who weighs 250 pounds—I'm just a dinky 230—I felt I had a right to seek protection. I sneaked over to the official and whispered that Hart was trying to get me. On the next play, Leon threw an elbow at me and the alerted official nailed the Lions for a 15-yard penalty. It was shortly after that that I got that TIME tribute."
The Lions, Paul feels, did him a grave injustice by implying that he played dirty.
"There is a big difference, you know," says Don. "A dirty player is one who purposely tries to injure his opponent to get him out of the game. Those are the guys I call vipers. No respectable villain will even talk to a viper. If I met one in an elevator, I'd spit in his face. A villain has a strategy, but not the viper. He will punch a player in the eye or knee him in the back just for meanness. I know one viper who does nothing except sneak up on players who are down and stomp on their hands." Among other things, Paul feels, injuring a man to get him out of the game can be bad planning.
"A substitute might come in and beat you," says Don. "The safest approach is to try to aggravate or intimidate the opponent to the point where he is giving only the minimum effort, but still stays in the game."
In a game three years ago between the Rams and Chicago Bears, Paul perpetuated what he considers his most masterful act of villainy. He subjected a high-spirited rookie halfback for the Bears to an unrelenting campaign of harassment and intimidations: on each tackle, an extra thump; when the rookie wasn't carrying the ball, a jostle. The player's temper drew slowly to a fine edge.
A RAMBLING WRECK
Then he blew up. Trapped on a pitchout, he reversed his field defiantly to avoid Paul and other tacklers. By the time he was through, he had run backwards—51 yards—fumbled the ball and watched a Ram recover and run for a touchdown. The back was so exasperated that he sat down on the field and cried.