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NOSE: Kilmer, Washington.
But a mere listing of names and injuries cannot begin to convey the ferocity of action that fed the butcher's bill. When Bradshaw was hurt, it looked like a take from King Kong. Cleveland Defensive End Joe ( Turkey) Jones caught Bradshaw running out of the pocket, grabbed him by the waist and—with Terry still struggling as the whistle blew—upended the 210-pound quarterback as if he were a stuffed panda, then pile-drove him headfirst into the ground. Bradshaw's X rays disclosed no fractures (a credit to conditioning and a neck like a bull elephant's), but his vertebrae were compressed nearly to the cracking point and he missed two full games as a result. Turkey Jones, outwardly remorseful, saw his team penalized a mere 15 yards and had his name announced (to cheers) over the loudspeaker. You naughty boy, you.
Oddly enough, Coach Chuck Noll of Pittsburgh exonerated Jones, calling his post-whistle mayhem "an enthusiastic tackle—the late hit was a normal follow-through on a play like that." Steeler Middle Linebacker Jack Lambert was not so forbearing: "I told Jones that I thought what he did was the cheapest thing I've ever seen in football. It's not football anymore, it's a street fight. Jones hurt Bradshaw intentionally. I hope he gets his neck broken."
Joe Ferguson's back injury came in the second quarter of a game against New England. Ferguson was moving the Bills into Patriot territory in the second quarter when he rolled out and ran nine yards to a first down on the 29. There he was met by three New England linebackers. Sam Hunt hit first, slamming his knee into Ferguson's left side. Then Steve Nelson arrived with a crunch, and finally Steve Zabel came in just as the whistle blew, spearing Ferguson with his helmet. The combined weight of the tacklers—705 pounds—hitting from different angles popped four of the small, hornlike projections attached to Ferguson's lower vertebrae. There was no penalty.
Bartkowski's knee injury was another case of sudden stresses coming from different directions. In a game against New Orleans, Bartkowski was dropping back when Defensive End Andy Dorris, pounding up from behind, snagged the quarterback's face mask. Simultaneously, Tackle Derland Moore slammed in low from the side, directly against Bartkowski's right knee. The Saints were penalized only five yards for the face-mask infraction.
To anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of human anatomy, it is easy to see why quarterbacks are breaking with the regularity of dropped teacups. With the possible exception of pass receivers, they are the most vulnerable men on the field—and far and away the most desirable targets for pulverization. Even a quarterback who has stayed in his protective pocket of blockers is wide open at the moment he cocks his arm to throw. Those tender short ribs are totally unprotected. His weight is on his rearmost leg, where tendons and ligaments are stretched like fragile rubber bands, ready to snap when a sudden 250-pound thrust is laid on them. His fingers, usually the most talented on the club, are not protected by the tape that linemen wear, making them prime potential victims of a crunching foot or, when the going gets really fierce, a set of snapping jaws. When the quarterback runs, as many of them are now doing, he is usually pitting a 200-pound body against the fast-moving mass of a 230-pound linebacker or—and here one tends to close one's eyes at the moment of impact—a 260-pound defensive lineman. When you stop to think about it, they should call the man a "hanged, drawn and quartered back."
What's more, the heightened emphasis on defense in the modern game has given the defense the best and biggest athletes in football. Pass rushers are bigger and, more important, quicker than ever. Zone defenses have made it far more difficult for a passer to find an open target in the few seconds he enjoys before the rushers break through to him. "We should recognize there's been a change in the structure of the defense," argues John Brodie, the retired San Francisco quarterback. "Pro basketball realized the players were so big, and had such a wide arm spread, that the people had outgrown the size of the court. This was one of the reasons zone defenses were eliminated."