PUTTING IN FOR OVERTIME
Bears coach Mike Ditka may well be the league's early-bird workaholic, arriving at his Lake Forest (Ill.) office most days by 4:30 a.m. and heading home about 9 p.m. In the off-season, Ditka arrives at a more sensible hour—6:30 a.m. "He's always been this way," says Mary Albright, Ditka's secretary. "He's afraid he'll miss something. "A possible runner-up is Giants coach Bill Parcells, who is at his desk by about 6 a.m. "When I interviewed Bill for the job," says G.M. George Young, "he asked if he had to socialize or play golf. I told him, 'Absolutely not. 'I didn't want a scratch golfer."
THE NFL'S GRETA GARBO AWARD
Most elusive superstar: Marcus Allen.
BEST OFF-SEASON MOVE
The Browns new quarterback coach Greg Landry, a 14-year vet, will tutor rookie Bernie Kosar. Landry's first contact with Kosar was off the field: He visited the University of Miami with head coach Marty Schottenheimer to help persuade Kosar to sign.
GROWING UP THE HARD WAY
Bronco coach Dan Reeves now admits he expected too much from John Elway when Elway was a rookie in 1983. "I wish I'd waited to put him in, "Reeves says. "I'm sure there was damage that John has had to overcome." He also had to overcome the complicated Bronco offense. "It wasn't logical," says Elway, now beginning his third season. "There were too many rules. It was like, 'i before e, except after c...oh, but sometimes after m, and maybe in this situation....' " So, the past two years, Reeves and Elway have simplified things. "Now, we're teacher and assistant," says Elway. "A lot of people have this image of me as a brat. I've grown up a lot. And I've grown into this offense."
NEW ENGLAND'S SQUEEZE PLAY
When the New England Patriots were handed globs of bright red putty by coach Raymond Berry, cynical veterans rolled their eyes. Could Play-Doh be far behind? Why, the Patriots figured, they'd be labeled the kindergarten of the NFL. But Berry, a conditioning fanatic, assured them this wasn't kid stuff. Rather, it was just a form of isokinetic exercise—squeeze, release squeeze, release—a way to strengthen the hand and finger muscles by working against resistance. Berry became an All-Pro receiver with the Baltimore Colts (1955-67) using these methods. And who couldn't use a Ray Berry?
THE ALL-UNDERRATED TEAM
The scouts know them, the opponents fear them, but to the average fan they are not headliners.
Wide receivers: Steve Watson, Denver; Jeff Chadwick, Lions.
TE: Zeke Mowatt, Giants.
Tackles: Dave Studdard, Denver; Jim Covert, Chicago.
Guards: Brad Edelman, New Orleans; John Ayers, S.F.
Center: Doug Smith, Rams.
QB: Bill Kenney, K.C.
Running backs: Gerry Ellis, Green Bay; Hokie Gajan, N.O.
Defensive ends: Greg Townsend, Raiders; Rulon Jones, Denver.
Nose tackle: Jim Burt, Giants.
Linebackers: John Anderson, Green Bay; Bruce Scholtz, Seattle; Eugene Lockhart, Dallas; Jim Collins, Rams.
Cornerbacks: Elbert Foules, Philly; William Judson, Miami.
Safeties: Dennis Smith, Denver; Benny Perrin, St.L.
AMERICA'S NEW TEAM?
Nope, it's no longer the Dallas Cowboys—not this season, anyway. It's the San Francisco 49ers, thanks, in part, to CBS. To help bolster declining NFL ratings, the network is planning to give the reigning Super Bowl champs as much exposure as the Cowboys. Says Terry O'Neil, executive producer of CBS Sports, "Right now, the 49ers are the most watchable team. They have the most distinctive personalities both on the sidelines and on the field."