- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"He works like a master," says Paul. "Most of the time he rides the end to the sidelines with his shoulder. But then sometimes, in the tangle of arms, his hand slips—accidentally, of course—and he grabs the player by the jersey. The end may holler 'holding,' but in football, thank God, there are no penalties on hearsay. The officials have to see it. Bednarik is a smooth boy. He's the best pass checker I've ever seen."
"Elroy [Crazy Legs] Hirsch, the Ram end, once remarked that, purely by coincidence, more people tripped over Connor's foot than anyone he knew," says Paul. " Connor and Fred Davis, the former tackle, used to two-team him too. Connor would brace himself tightly against Davis and spring out, forcing Hirsch to go wide. Every here and there, an elbow alongside the head would force him wider. Then they'd line up wide and Hirsch would try to go between. Wham, they shut the gate. Davis usually helped Hirsch up and with mock sympathy told Connor, 'Aw, George, don't go messing up Hollywood like that.' "
Despite the deftness with which villains operate, Paul admits that offensive platoons have not taken their mischief sitting down. They have devised countermeasures aimed at beating the rogues at their own game. Paul's teammate, Norm Van Brocklin, the quarterback and a high priority target of villains, recalls that during his first five years in pro football, he fought the villains body and soul. "I talked back, threw punches, elbows...everything. But it was just like shoveling sand against the tide."
Van Brocklin has since adopted a set of principles. "First," Van Brocklin says, "you must never acknowledge anything they say or do. Even if they whack you and knock out your wind, you always jump up just as though nothing had happened and walk casually back to the huddle. This discourages them.
"Second, you go out of your way to 'burn' them. If an end is charging hard, you call for a Statue of Liberty and make him look like a sap. If he's a lineman, you trap him. If he's a linebacker, you match a swift little halfback against him on a pass. The idea is to make the villain look bad in the game movies so that his coach will eat him up the next day. If you burn these guys often enough, they soon concern themselves with protecting their own business, not yours.
"The third way," Van Brocklin continues, "is what we call 'Bumsteading.' When a charging villain ticks you just lightly after you punt or pass, you automatically make like Dagwood Bumstead falling downstairs. You ham it up good. This often will get the defense a 15-yard penalty. In a game against the Bears one day, I took an artistic nose dive when Sprinkle brushed me on a punt. As the referee dropped his marker to signify a 15-yarder, I winked slyly at Connor, who was looking down at me in disgust. Connor said, 'Get up, you bum, you're not hurt.' And the Bears got 15 more for unsportsmanlike conduct."
CERTAIN INHERENT DANGERS
Villains rarely start fights on the field or engage in those that other people start.
"There are two reasons for this," Paul explains. "First, fighting is dangerous; a guy can get hurt that way. And second, it can get you thumbed from the game. A villain usually feels he has scored a clean victory if he can irritate an opponent to where he will do something to get his team penalized, or will smolder to the point of lessening his own effort."