Gilchrist was stunned. It would not break his heart to leave Buffalo, but he did not want to leave as a loser or a quitter. His pride would not allow that. Cookie talked to his wife and to his lawyer, and on Wednesday he went to the Bills' practice and apologized to the team. One of the players who had been angriest at Cookie during half time on Sunday approached Saban and asked if Gilchrist could have another chance. Saban said no, but he did agree to listen. Gilchrist met with Saban for an hour and a half, and when Cookie came out of the office he was one of the Bills again. "He really humbled himself," said Saban. "I didn't think he could do it."
"In the past," Cookie told the press in what sounded strangely like an Episcopalian confession, "I have said and done many things for which I am truly ashamed. I have criticized my teammates and my coaching staff unjustly. I am sorry. I am going to abide by every rule of the club and concentrate on only one thing—to do my job as fullback of the Buffalo Bills to the best of my ability."
The reinstatement brought a howl from Oakland Coach Al Davis, who, along with New York and Boston, had put in a waiver claim for Gilchrist. "It was a phony deal, a hoax," said Davis. "They never intended to let Gilchrist go." Perhaps Davis was right. With the Bills holding a game-and-a-half lead over Boston in the Eastern Division—a lead that could and would be down to nothing within three weeks—it certainly did not make sense to show the door to the finest fullback in the league. Next season, perhaps, Gilchrist will be traded. But this season the Bills needed Cookie Gilchrist, and knew it. By placing him on waivers they got his promise that he would prove himself all over again.
"A man is entitled to make mistakes," Cookie said. "It's how he feels afterward that matters. I'm a good man basically, but my mistakes have been publicized. I have learned humility. And I have learned something about coaches in my career. The best coaches are those who know the psychological fact that all men are boys at heart."