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Ray Perkins is sitting at the head table, fiddling with the microphone, trying to figure out how to answer the question. It is last Wednesday's press luncheon at the New York Giants' stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands, and 60 or so listeners lean forward to hear how the Giants' rookie coach will handle the tough question of whether or not he'll switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, which he doesn't care for, against unbeaten Tampa Bay on Sunday.
A heavy question, but a logical one, because the Giants have only three healthy defensive linemen. Perkins adjusts a button on his windbreaker and stares out at the audience with his pale blue, deep-set eyes—eyes that "look like they can stare right into your mind," as Giant Linebacker Brian Kelley has said.
In front of Perkins sit members of the press, who constitute only a small part of the press-day audience. Behind them are scattered the Giant brass and a group from the New Jersey Sports Authority, including a delegation from the Meadowlands' indoor arena, which is under construction. There are a few oldtime radio and TV people around, an out-of-work PR man or two and, of course, the car dealers. They supply the team automobiles, at a price, and part of the deal is that they can attend real live press conferences. Slightly behind and to the left of the dais sits the Tampa Bay publicist.
Perkins learned his football from Bear Bryant and Don Shula and Chuck Fairbanks, who are not in the habit of discussing game plans at Wednesday luncheons. He is not comfortable with this press-day circus.
The writer repeats the question: "In your mind, have you ruled out the 3-4?"
"I beg your pardon?"