Csonka, his hand covering his face, looked up wearily and mumbled, "Go to hell."
Kiick smiled and said, "Zonk, this is only the beginning."
For the next seven weeks Csonka lifted weights, used the Orthotron, ran daily and dieted. "When I came back to Miami at the end of March," Csonka said, "my knee was not strong enough to get through an entire season. In New York I wasn't playing much and I sort of lost interest. Lundy told me it would take a month, maybe even six weeks, of hard work, but that the knee would eventually come around. I put as much value on what Lundy says as I do on what my wife says and on what Shula says. I knew Lundy wouldn't mislead me. But he really drove me hard all the time."
Shula watched many of Csonka's workouts. "I don't think he ever worked half as hard as he did this off-season," Shula said. "He had to, because of the situation he's in. He had to get that weight off and it was a struggle. He can't make it if he plays at 250 pounds. Age is creeping up on him."
Csonka showed up for Shula's rookie and veteran mini-camps in May, then resumed his hard training. Two weeks ago he checked into the Dolphins' training camp a week early in order to participate in the orientation for rookies and second-year players, and when he stepped on the scales he weighed 237 pounds—exactly as Shula had ordered.
Then Csonka caught another of Shula's horrors. This time it was a grueling 12-minute run in Miami's midmorning humidity. Shula requires all the Dolphins to do five laps around the Biscayne College practice field. In his years with the team, Csonka had been vocal in his dislike for Shula's preseason regimen, especially the endurance run. There had been practical jokes to put the point across, and there had even been eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations between them.
This time Csonka didn't balk. He made five laps plus 240 yards in the 12 minutes, coming in almost two laps behind the first-place finisher, rookie Defensive Back Jerome Stanton. Still, it was a more impressive showing than Shula had expected. "That's the furthest he's ever been," said Shula. "Before, it was a big deal to get him headed in one direction and keep his momentum going without having him stop to walk."
Csonka explained, "I've had a mood change. It used to be I had negative overtones to all this. But now I'm keeping my mouth shut. I'm still not a yes man. I don't like running gassers. I don't like carrying the ball an extra 10 yards in running drills. I can't stand the 12-minute run. I don't like any of it, but I do it. I still think Shula's training camp is a bunch of hooey—his curfew and all that. But for the first time in my life I'm ready to cooperate in every instance.
"I'm ready to make any sacrifice he demands. I just want to be on the field as much as I can, and that includes going down on kickoffs. I'm telling you straight across. That's an easy thing to say, but it's a tough thing to back up, and believe me, I'll line up in a minute. Because of my age, my knee and the fact I might be a step slower, I've got to make up for it in enthusiasm and by making a good impression. I just want to be on a winning team. That might sound humble for a guy that's in his 12th year, but that's exactly where I'm at.
"There's no future for me. My future is behind me. I've got one year and I'm going for broke. Each game is my career and that's the way I'm going at it. I don't believe I'll ever be in another training camp."