For a man who hadn't carried a football in anger for nine months, O.J. played well enough in his first outing. Coach Lou Saban avoided overworking him, the Juice ran five times for 28 yards, and in the last quarter he caught a short pass over the middle from Quarterback Joe Ferguson for 43 more. For one run he was the old O.J.—cutting, changing his pace, reversing his field and breaking two tackles, and he had the crowd on its feet—putting the lie to those surly signs that read " Miami needs the oranges but Buffalo don't need the Juice."
"I should have been able to get away from that last guy," O.J. said, "but I was tired. I didn't have the overdrive."
All through the week he worked to find it, trying to regain his timing and to remember the Bills' plays (on his first play against Miami he lined up wrong and drew a mixture of boos and laughs from the crowd). Saban, who had been chilly and standoffish at first, relented and once again warmed to O.J.'s presence. And then there were the minor, niggling details of setting up house once again in Buffalo.
"Show you how California-smart I am," Simpson said, laughing. "I shut off the heat in my house here when I went west last winter. I was tired of getting heating bills, and I didn't know pipes could freeze. So one of them popped upstairs and the whole ceiling fell down." The house, which is owned by the Bills, was quickly repaired, but the problem of a suitable Juician decor remained. "I gave my house plants to Reggie's wife," O.J. said, "and now she's holding them for ransom. She wants a new washer and dryer before she'll give 'em back. Those plants—I need 'em. I call 'em 'my kids.' I gotta have the house looking like an African jungle."
During the week, O.J. and McKenzie went to Simpson's favorite plant shop where the great man checked out prices. "What I really want," he joshed the grinning salesgirls, "is an African spider-eatin' Aurelia, but you haven't got any. I want clean plants and all you got is dirty ones. I gotta get my kids back!"
Later, over lunch at The Creekside Inn in suburban Williamsville, O.J. said, "It's good to be back. Toward the end there, I was getting real edgy, hard to live with. I was running a lot in Balboa Park to keep in shape, and playing some tennis for my legs, but I was getting mean. Marquerite knew it, too. But now it's all settled. I'm back and I'm happy."
Last Sunday afternoon against Houston, though, O.J. did not run for joy.