A few moments later Unitas threw a pass over the middle and Defensive Back Ron Smith made a good play, batting it out of the receiver's hands. "Hey, old man," Smith hollered. "I got you that time. You didn't fool me."
Until the last split second Unitas had looked at another receiver. In his illustrious past he has stared down an entire secondary, influencing the defenders to follow his eyes and not his arm. The San Diego defensive backs were beginning to realize that where he looks is not where he goes.
"You can't tell what the man will do," Smith said. "I remember when I was with the Bears and he had first and goal on our five. No way, with the running backs he had, he was going to do anything but run the ball down our throat. Know what he called? He called a screen! Nobody in nine miles of the receiver. That just blew our minds. They went on to kill us."
"He knows more about football than anyone I've ever met," says Svare. "I've been associated with some great quarterbacks as a player and a coach—Y.A. Tittle, Charlie Conerly, a lot of them. But none could touch him. Aside from everything else—the arm, the head, the leadership—he's the smoothest ball handler I ever saw. He never makes a mistake."
"It's a little different, handing off here," Unitas said. "The backs are individualists. They don't run the same route the same way every time, so I have to adjust. It's no big problem, though. Mike Garrett may go wide one time and pinch me the next, but he's a fine back and I can handle that."
Unitas bounced up and down on the water bed, listening to the gurgles. "I guess this thing's all right," he said. "I've only had it three days. The problem I got with it is every time I change position at night, it wakes me up going slosh, slosh, and I don't really know if it has helped my back at all."
The back is the most serious of a series of injuries that have kept Unitas a bit behind schedule, the most recent being a result of getting blind-sided in an exhibition against the 49ers.
"One of their big defensive linemen hit me a shot," he said. "I was down and my leg was twisted a little and he fell on it and I could hear it pop. I walked off the field but the knee was sore and a few days later, trying to favor it again, my back went out and I had a muscle spasm. I couldn't straighten up. The doctor put it back in place and it doesn't bother me now, but the knee is arthritic and my doctor in Baltimore says that it will deteriorate a little every year. So I don't know how much longer I can play and neither does anyone else. I'll take it week by week."
Unitas is playing this year for pride. He does not really like the California climate. He owns a 70-year-old farmhouse on a few acres of land outside Baltimore and, occasionally, in the relentless sun that illuminated Irvine, he longed for weather.
"I was just thinking the other day," he said. "I was trying to figure out what I miss. You know something, we haven't even had a drizzle since we came to camp. I miss thunder showers. I like to sit on the porch and watch the rain come down. No way I could ever live out here. I'll put in the time I can, but when it's over I'm going back to where it rains in the afternoon and gets cold in the winter."