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"When I told them what terms I wanted, it set them back," he said, smiling. "Here was a guy who had been after the job as hard as he could go, and now he asks for a long contract and a lot of money. I didn't get all I asked for. We sort of compromised, but I've got time to develop the team."
Once he was hired, Fears began studying the rosters of the other clubs in the NFL, trying to guess which players they would make available to him.
"We spent three weeks, day and night, studying rosters," he said. "Mardi Gras week came along, and I still have to see my first Mardi Gras. First, of course, we wanted a quarterback and we thought we might get Fran Tarkenton, but we were real lucky. No matter what you pay for a quarterback the quality of Cuozzo, it's cheap, and we paid less than the Giants did for Tarkenton."
Fears finally decided to take the best athletes and, to a certain extent, disregard what position they played. "We kept in mind a little balance, but first we wanted good, young athletes," he said.
Although league rules did not permit Fears to contact individual ballplayers he wanted ahead of the veteran draft, he did have other sources of information about players he was interested in.
Before he took Hornung, Fears called Lombardi. "The old man told me that Hornung would never play for me, but I thought it was a good calculated risk," Fears said. "No one knew the extent of his injury then. He was worth drafting though, because of the spirit he brought to camp. He's a lifter—he brings a club up just being around."
Fears's policy of drafting for athletic ability first and position second resulted in his getting a trio of good linebackers from Baltimore. After he had taken a linebacker on his first choice from the Colts, Baltimore felt he would not need another and left two more linebackers unguarded. Fears took them, too. Now, in Jack Burkett, Ted Davis and Steve Stonebreaker, he has a seasoned trio who should be more effective because they have played together.
The veterans from other teams have reacted well to the tough camp. Most of them are in the first two or three years of their careers, and most played behind good men on the clubs they came from.
"It's a new lease on life," says Kilmer. "You have a chance to be a starter here, so you work a lot harder. I'm throwing better now than I ever did in San Francisco because I'm getting a chance to throw. You see these guys hit in scrimmage? We have a fight nearly every day because everyone's battling for a job that's open. The veterans try like rooks."