A number of players, of course, are simply coming back to the league that spawned them. Others had joined NFL teams in previous years. Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Jim Smith signed with the Los Angeles Raiders after spending three seasons with Birmingham. Tight end Dan Ross, a Super Bowl hero for Cincinnati in 1982, rejoined the Bengals after a stint with the Breakers, as did defensive end Ross Browner after a gig with the Houston Gamblers. And offensive tackle Luis Sharpe returned to St. Louis after a short time in Memphis.
Browner is a good example of the player-for-hire hybrid inspired by year-round football. He played last season for the Bengals, relaxed for a couple of months, then signed with the Gamblers for the final six games of their season before going back to Cincinnati. His fee from the Gamblers: a $10,000 bonus and $10,000 per game.
Body breakdown and burnout, however, may lie in wait for former USFL players who think they can glide untouched through back-to-back football seasons.
Raiders nosetackle and defensive end Dave Stalls played in 33 games from September 1983 to June 1984—first with the Tampa Bay Bucs, then with the Raiders and finally with the Denver Gold. "I hope they're getting a helluva lot of money, because they're going to need it for their psychiatrists and doctors," he says of the double-season guys.
Stalls says he nearly cracked with the Gold. "It was just too much," he says. He asked for, and got, a week off at midseason to unwind.
Ross played in 38 straight games from August 1983 to June 1984 and recalls that by the end he "couldn't run, couldn't think, couldn't move."
So, how much sympathy can these new or reborn NFLers expect to receive this season? Not much. As Saints coach Bum Phillips says, "Businessmen work 11 months a year."