On the afternoon before the game, practice lasted only 30 minutes. Usually this practice is devoted to the special teams, but on this day Brown was working on some razzle-dazzle, including an end around and a complicated double reverse that winds up with the quarterback swinging wide and throwing deep.
Jess Phillips, a starting running back, arrived 15 minutes late, but Brown paid no attention to him. "I thought practice was for 1:30," he said sheepishly. A few minutes later Crabtree showed up with the same excuse, and Paul Robinson, the other running back, hollered. "You guys better get your watches set right. You're making Paul Brown a rich man!" (Late arrival for practice carries an automatic $50 fine.)
Greg Cook, the starting quarterback in 1969 who sat out last season and will miss this one after two operations to correct a shoulder injury, watched the workout with Chip Myers, a wide receiver who managed to break both arms in an exhibition game.
Hanging from the side of a viaduct that overlooks the practice field was a banner reading CARTER CLUB, and Crabtree pointed it out to Cook and laughed. "What happened to all them signs used to read COOK IS BETTER THAN NA-MATH?" he asked. "Man, you been here about long enough to collect your five-year pension and you been in about four games. Guess it just proves white players can't go in the clutch."
"When I came here from San Diego," Ernie Wright had said earlier, "I didn't know if I would last 10 minutes. I know Jim Brown real well and I wasn't at all sure I could get along with Paul Brown. But everything I heard was completely wrong. He's as honest as a man can be and he treats everyone squarely. Lot of people with the power he has you can't even approach. But you can always talk to Paul Brown. Maybe you can't change his mind, but you can still talk to him. Playing for him has enriched my life and I enjoy it."
The practice was meticulously organized and went off crisply, the units operating with precision and enthusiasm. Cook shook his head. "What a difference," he said. "I remember going to the first Bengal training camp in 1968, when I was a senior at the University of Cincinnati, and being surprised at how slow and overweight the club looked. Now they're all lean and hungry. We look like a real good football team."
"We are just about on the schedule I set when we started," Brown said after the practice. "I'm not like most of the other coaches in the league because I have my own money invested in this club and my sons are in the organization. [ Mike Brown is the assistant general manager and Pete is director of player personnel.] I'm not trying for immediate success by trading draft choices for veterans who might be able to help me for a couple of years. We're building on youth, and that takes time. We try to have a younger player behind a veteran wherever we can. Rufus Mayes is an example of what I mean. He's in his third year and he plays behind the offensive tackle and guard. He's just 23 and by the time Ernie Wright is ready to retire Mayes will be ready to step in. We want to build for continuing success."
Brown interrupted himself, got up, leaned out the window and called to a player walking toward his car. "Take care of yourself, Sandy," he said. "I may have been a little hard on you a while ago, but it was for your own good."
Brown sat down and smiled. "Sandy Durko is one of our defensive backs," he explained. "I don't know if you noticed, but he got a little too enthusiastic in dummy scrimmage and hurt his knee hitting a receiver he shouldn't have hit at all. I emphasize to all the players that they should never take a chance on getting hurt on a Saturday. No real professional ever does. I'll never forget one year with Cleveland, the Saturday before we were to play the Detroit Lions for the world championship. Tommy O'Connell was my starting quarterback that year, but he had broken his leg earlier in the season and was still limping badly, so Milt Plum was the only healthy quarterback I had. At the end of practice, horsing around, Plum asked one of the players to throw him a long pass on the way to the dressing room. He was running under control, but the ball was overthrown and he accelerated all at once trying to catch it and popped a hamstring. With two crippled quarterbacks, we lost."
Last weekend, with two healthy quarterbacks, the Bengals won, and Brown was wondering how long it will be before he could have that first glorious martini. If Cincinnati keeps winning, it will be in precisely 119 days.