The first half was drawing to a close when the Chicago Bears, desperate, decided to audition a new quarterback. And what did Walter Payton think of his brief stint at QB in Sunday's 20-14 loss to the Packers? "It was O.K.," says Payton, who took six snaps, all from the shotgun formation. He had one of his two pass attempts intercepted by Green Bay's Tom Flynn, and he carried the ball himself four times for 25 yards. "But," says Payton, who had never played quarterback before, "I wouldn't want to do it for a living."
With Jim McMahon sidelined with a lacerated kidney, second-stringer Steve Fuller out with a separated shoulder and newly acquired 38-year-old Greg Landry waiting in the wings, Bears coach Mike Ditka decided to give Payton a try. Rusty Lisch, the No. 3 quarterback, didn't mind being pulled. "I was kinda excited, really, just to see what would happen," said Lisch.
The Soldier Field fans went crazy; on every play, Payton had to signal them to quiet down. In the huddle, he was just as cool. "He took charge," said center Jay Hilgenberg. "One time he said, 'Screen left to Cal over there.' The rest of the time he had it all right."
Playing halfback, Payton ran 31 more times for 150 yards and a touchdown—the first NFL player to run the ball more than 3,000 times in his career. In the third quarter, Payton shifted to the left wing from a Power I, took the hand-off from Lisch and threw a two-yard TD to Matt Suhey.
"The man can do everything," says Jim Osborne, defensive tackle. "His first year, I saw him catch a punt in practice—behind his back. He was doing it as though he does it all the time.... I'm looking forward to seeing it on the news."