For several years now SI has been expanding its coverage of pro football. Two years ago we introduced our annual College & Pro Football Spectacular (the '84 edition will be out Aug. 20), and in our regular issues we have been devoting more and more pages to NFL news coverage and feature stories on NFL players. But the more we did, the more we wanted to do. "Our major problem in dealing with a 16-week season for a 28-team league has been covering the waterfront," says pro football editor Joe Marshall.
What we needed was a new game plan, and what we've come up with is EXTRA POINTS, not a two-point conversion but a feature that makes its debut in this issue (page 92) and will appear weekly throughout the NFL season. EXTRA POINTS consists of notes that, says Marshall, "will keep readers more informed about what's going on behind the scenes while giving them a closer look at some of the people who play the game." What's more, there will be a story each week leading into EXTRA POINTS; in this issue it's associate writer Rick Telander's view of San Diego's 510-pound bull-elephant backfield.
We have entrusted EXTRA POINTS to writer-reporter Jill Lieber, who in three years at SI has shown marked initiative. Lieber is never far from the phone, and she responds to any small kindness by saying "Thank you for using AT & T." She is the kind of person who enjoys bending people's ears and doesn't mind putting a crease in her own. While gathering material for this week's EXTRA POINTS—assisted by a network of SI correspondents—Lieber spoke to many a player, coach and general manager. "I'd finish with one person," she says, "and another would call. I was on the phone for eight hours straight. But I'm constantly on the phone anyway, and I've always been crazy about football. So what this means is that I'm telling my non-football friends I'll see them in February.
"I hope every week to give fans the scoop on Dallas and the 27 other teams," she says, "because I think they're like me. They can never get enough football."
Lieber, who's been on our pro football beat for two years, comes by her passion for the game honestly. She grew up in Neenah, Wis., 40 minutes from Green Bay. She and her father followed the Packers religiously. "I'd make a pilgrimage every summer to training camp," she says. At Stanford, Lieber took a course called Theory and Technique of Football, taught by Cardinal coach Bill Walsh—now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and one of the people Lieber will call regularly. Also in the class of '78 was wide receiver James Lofton, currently of the Packers and another of Lieber's frequent phonemates. The only thing that's changed is that now Lieber is putting some points on the board, too.