Then I left. I had said I wouldn't play for anyone but Los Angeles, but I had had such a good half against the Giants I wanted to go on. Maybe if I had looked bad against New York I would have said to hell with it. Frank Gifford called me and welcomed me to the club, and I asked him if he thought I would get to play much with Charlie Conerly in there. The coach always tells you that you will, but I wanted the opinion of a player.
"Sure," Giff said. "Charlie can't carry the whole load anymore. You'll play a lot."
I reported to the Giants' camp in Salem, Ore., and the players welcomed me about the way you would welcome a bill collector. They weren't actively unfriendly, but this was a veteran club and all the players had already established their friendships. There wasn't room for Y. A. in any of the establishments. I was too old to fraternize with the rookies, so until Del Shofner came to the team from the Rams three weeks later I was about the loneliest man in town.
It didn't help any when I got racked on the first play of my first Giant game. That was an exhibition against the Rams. I had learned a couple of off-tackle plays and a couple of passes from Don Hein-rich on the plane to Los Angeles. I worked on the snap from center with Ray Wietecha just before the game; it takes longer than that to get accustomed to a new center.
Anyway, Allie Sherman put me in late in the game and I called one of the off-tackle plays and fumbled the snapback. I picked up the ball and started to run and proved all over again that quarterbacks should never run. I saw I wasn't going to get anywhere and dropped to the ground just as about a thousand pounds of Ram linemen lit on my back. I could feel things pop in my backbone. I knew I had had it. When they peeled the Rams off me, I struggled to my feet and waved at the bench and hobbled off the field.
It turned out that I had two cracked transverse processes in my back and that I would be out for five weeks. So my first five weeks with the Giants were spent standing around in street clothes watching them work. You get to know the guys on a squad by being in games with them, and I suppose that injury slowed my acceptance by the club as much as any one thing.
When I got back into my working clothes, though, I found Sherman a wonderful coach to play for, and whatever loneliness I had felt before disappeared. I was now a Giant and a happy one. His practices were the most carefully planned I had ever seen, and his relationship with the players was warm and considerate.
As I said before, a two-quarterback setup is almost always a bad one. Sherman had Conerly, who had led the Giants for 10 years, and me, another veteran. Sherman handled the situation well, as he handled everything. He called us into his office one afternoon.
"You have both seen the speculation in the papers on who is going to be the Giants' No. 1 quarterback," he said. "You are both used to starting, but you are both mature men, too. This will be a difficult situation for all of us. You will have to make some sacrifices and trust in me when I make whatever moves I have to. But as long as you are healthy, one or the other of you will be in the game. I consider both of you my No. 1 quarterback."
He never again referred to either me or Charlie as No. 1. We shared time in 1961 and, to Charlie's credit, he took my intrusion gracefully and with no sign of animosity. He and Sherman made a difficult situation a good one.