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The last call for Number 39
Tom Archdeacon
July 30, 1979
Larry Csonka has not heard too many cheers since he left Miami in 1975, but now he is back with the Dolphins, hoping to relive the Super Bowl days in his final season
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July 30, 1979

The Last Call For Number 39

Larry Csonka has not heard too many cheers since he left Miami in 1975, but now he is back with the Dolphins, hoping to relive the Super Bowl days in his final season

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"Our past relationship was something good and special," Shula said, "and I have a good memory for guys that really put it on the line for me, but if I ever let emotion enter into it, I wouldn't be doing my job as a football coach. It wouldn't be fair to my staff, to my players or to myself. If he gets down and proves he can do anything near what he did in his old days, he'll be useful to our team. But there are no guarantees. He still has to win a job on the football team."

Csonka started toward that goal during the first week of April when he began working out daily at the Dolphins' training camp at Biscayne College. Kiick, who is retired from football, exercised in the Dolphins' weight room—"pleasure lift-in'," he said—but for Csonka there was only toil. He was trying to strengthen his left knee and at the same time get his weight down from a wintertime 264 pounds to a Shula-ordered 237 by the start of preseason drills. He was eating only one meal a day.

At one point, hungry and ill, Csonka stared at the Orthotron, "a medieval torture chamber," as he called it. Dolphin trainer Bob Lundy then helped strap Csonka into the machine, which is an isokinetic exercise device used to rehabilitate knees. Csonka sat down in a leather seat with chrome handles while Lundy strapped his massive left leg into a brace. All Csonka would have to do would be to raise and lower his leg. But there was a catch. The machine measures torque, and there would be plenty of resistance to be overcome.

"O.K., Zonk," Lundy said. "We'll do a set of 10, then another, then five real slow."

Csonka's meaty hands gripped the handles. He raised his leg. His face contorted, and his knuckles turned yellow, then white, until it seemed he would rip the handles out of the machine. The muscles of his thighs bulged. The scar above his left knee, a surgical memento, began to redden.

A slow groan rolled up from his chest.

"Oooooooohaaaa," moaned Csonka. "Hhhhheeeeennnnnk...aaaaaaahhh."

Once, twice, three times. And again and again and again. Beads of sweat popped on his brow and slowly trickled down his broad, crooked nose.

Kiick strolled into the room, smiling mischievously.

"What's all this moanin'?" he said.

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