SI Vault
Melvin Durslag
November 28, 1955
So says Don Paul, veteran linebacker with the Los Angeles Rams, who makes a careful distinction between rugged and 'dirty ball,' a phrase that has rocked the pros this year
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November 28, 1955

Pro Football Is Plenty Rough

So says Don Paul, veteran linebacker with the Los Angeles Rams, who makes a careful distinction between rugged and 'dirty ball,' a phrase that has rocked the pros this year

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Only rarely, Paul admits, will the cunning of a villain pay off so directly. His program is usually aimed at contributing slowly to the psychic decay of an opponent until the latter's efficiency has been reduced.

Joe Perry, the fullback for the 49ers and the league's leading ground gainer the last two years, says that it is often the intention of the villain to make the opponent play a cautious game, which is ruinous.

One Paul technique is tough talk. "You question their courage and you threaten to bust 'em up every time they get close to you. It's surprising how many guys you can slow down that way. Of course, if they still keep coming, you have to use your muscles. The main thing is to plant the seed in one way or another that you're taking charge."

In an exhibition game with the 49ers two years ago, Paul was undecided whether a hot-shot halfback for San Francisco was a front-runner or the real thing.

"I didn't find out until after the game," says Don. "He walked up to me, shook hands and said he wanted to thank me for the fair treatment. Here, for sure, was a front-runner. In the league game, I clobbered him good and took charge."

A painstaking student of human nature, Paul has learned to size up opponents quickly and decide what stimuli are most apt to louse up their efforts. "I keep a book on every runner in the National League," he says. "Most of the time you get your line on a back by trial and error, but sometimes you pick up valuable information through the grapevine. Once a guy discovers a weakness in an opponent, he likes to boast about it. Soon the tip spreads."

It is Paul's contention that most of the things that villains do on the field are quite within the rules.

"It's a matter of principle with us," he says, "that we must never break the rules unless, of course, the officials are looking the other way." In all the years he has played in the National League, Paul has been thrown out of only three games, all in 1951, a record to which he points with pride.

"Sharper officiating has made it necessary for villains to improve the quality of their work," Paul explains. "A polished operator should never be thumbed from a game and only rarely should draw a penalty for roughness. By studying the way plays form, he can usually anticipate the positions of officials and knows when he can pull a little something without getting caught. A good villain must always stay on the best terms with officials and must be courteous at all times. He can't afford to be a marked man. When he tackles an opponent in the presence of an official, he must always help the man to his feet and pat him lightly on the rear. To the official, this will make the villain look like a sportsman."

Paul is nicknamed "The Turk" after a mythical character in pro football training camps who cuts the squad. When a player turns up missing from practice one day, the others whisper ominously that The Turk got him, meaning that he was trimmed from the team. Paul, in the experience of the National League, fits the legend very well.

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