"I've never broken a finger," said Greene. "I had 'em stepped on, twisted, but not broken. One time I grabbed at Jim Plunkett and my little finger caught in a twist of his jersey and he ran for a ways dragging me that way, by my little finger. That turned my little finger around, but it didn't break it."
Most of the defensive linemen had broken many fingers. "You can't play football, I don't care what position, without hands," said Defensive End Dwight White. "I use 'em to pull, knock down, grab. Hands are as important as eyes."
He glanced down at his. "See this fanger," he said. "I got it jammed five years ago, and it's just started to straighten out. See that fanger. Can't wear a ring on it. I got some of the ugliest fangers in the world. They get bloodshot from licks. Come in with the whole end of it brown from hitting."
In '72 L.C. Greenwood looked down in the midst of a play to see the upper two-thirds of his middle finger completely twisted around backward and crossed over the ring finger. "I couldn't figure out what had happened. So I fixed it right there in the middle of the play and went on." He had it splinted and played with the splint on, and now that finger sticks out at a grotesque angle. He said he would get it straightened after he was out of football; no point doing it until then. It hurt in cold weather, he said.
Fats Holmes, a tackle, pounded the in-sides of his wrists—where the veins and tendons that suicides slit are—in sand to toughen them up.
Safety Mike Wagner said he broke three fingers his first year in the pros from grabbing at receivers, so now he tries to keep his hands out of his tackles. It is good tackling technique in the open field to use your shoulder and body instead of your hands anyway, he pointed out.
Receivers, running backs and quarterbacks could hardly keep their hands out of play, and they had to use them too subtly to be able to tape their fingers. "My fingers stay jammed," said Quarterback Joe Gilliam. "Stepped on. Pop 'em on helmets. Holding on to the ball while people are trying to pull it away. Every time one gets jammed you have to alter your grip, and that makes you anticipate your throw. Makes you think about it. That's bad. My two little fingers never will be the same. I jammed the right one in camp last year and it's still bothering me. Imagine what somebody like John Brodie or Sonny Jurgensen's hands are like, who's been playing so long."
"I don't hold," maintained Guard Sam Davis. "If I know a guy's going to beat me and get the quarterback, then I'll hold. Otherwise I use my fists. Hit him with my fists—catch him on the side, uppercut him in the ribs. Make contact with your shoulder and then come up with your hands; it's like a second man coming in to hit him. You ball your hands up so you have a firm type fist situation." But Sam got called for holding a number of times during the year. Noll put together a film to send to the league office, showing Sam getting called for clean licks and other linemen holding blatantly without getting called.
"There isn't a play run," maintained Punter Bobby Walden, "when holding couldn't be called."
"That's an old wives' tale," said Center Ray Mansfield. "But if I'm holding on purpose, there's no way I'm going to be caught at it."