Sherman is a
discreet man. He believes that the personnel problems on his club are private.
He will not discuss how he brings the best out of his players. He is very good
at it. His record this year is better than any experts thought possible. Nor
will he discuss a player who has not come up to expectations and is to be
released—such as Bundra—any more than he would divulge a game plan for a
following Sunday. He called Bundra a fine man, and he mentioned that his
problems were those of "technical difficulties." It was absurd to
believe the rumors—that he had been fired for mistakes in one series of plays
or for reasons of personal pique. Bundra's future? The fact that he had only
one more year to go for his pension? Well, he could fit in somewhere else. He
could have made it with the Giants, perhaps, if the present personnel had been
It was a tough
part of the business, releasing a man. Curiously, in Sherman's own case,
thinking back, it was a trade that had upset him more than letting a player go
outright—the Darrell Dess trade. It had to be done—the only way he could get
his quarterback, Earl Morrall—and he gave up an unbelievably skillful man with
a perfect football temperament. For Sherman, it was apparent that giving up
perfection rankled far more than any feeling of compassion he might have felt
for someone being released who hadn't quite been able to make the grade. One
felt he could talk about Dess for a long time.
The Bundras would
have left New York for their home in Detroit as soon as the cut was announced,
but they had to wait for their Chevrolet to be repaired. They had called the
Giant management to see if something could be done financially to help them
through the delay. They were told politely that there wasn't anything in the
contractual arrangements that obliged management to assist them.
So they stuck to
their apartment—with its brown wall-to-wall carpeting, the alcove kitchen and
bar, with the two tall bar stools in pink and the two Utrillo prints in cloth
on opposite walls in the living room. The Bundras' only personal belongings in
the living room were two souvenir ashtrays, a cardboard box in a corner for
Ginger, with a blanket door, a portable television set, and next to it on the
table three football trophies—two small football-player figurines on wooden
stands from Bundra's high school days, and a large, gold-tinted football with a
plaque that identified it as the John Dye trophy for the year's (1961)
outstanding lineman at Southern California, where Bundra went to college.
On one occasion
Bundra left the apartment to try to see the Giant coaches, to find out why,
exactly, he had been dropped. He sat in the locker room at Yankee Stadium, but
he was ignored so pointedly that after a while he left. "They knew I was
there. But they wouldn't look at me. It was like I wasn't there. I'll see them
before I go back to Detroit. I don't hold them no grudge. I've only played
maybe 10 minutes before this year. I need to find out what was wrong. If I have
a chance I'll better myself. It takes time.
learn nothing in your rookie year. The veterans won't talk to you. My second
year I began to learn; Alex Karras began to show me things—how to key and pick
up moves to tell me how to strike and where to pursue.
Cleveland, Modzelewski—Little Mo—he was the best teacher I ever had He gave me
confidence. I could feel I was going to have a good year. Then I was running
after Jimmy Brown in practice when I felt this big pain and I stopped up
short—like someone had hit me from behind with a stick—and they tell me I
busted a blood vessel in my calf. They can't use me much after that—just on the
goal-line stands when they use four defense tackles. But I got this." He
turned his hand so the championship ring glinted.
"It's not the
end of the world," he said. "I'm going to make it with another club.
But I wish I knew what had happened here in New York—to go all the way from
first string right out the bottom...."
their fault," his wife said. "They're the ones that are wrong."
"One of my
troubles," Bundra said, "is that I fight too much with the man in front
of me on a pass rush. I got to learn to get rid of him. Maybe that's it. Maybe
if I could straighten that problem out...."