A gregarious sort who had made a good deal of money from investments and endorsements, Bergey was as prominent a sporting personality as Philadelphia had. But he cut back on the extracurriculars so they wouldn't interfere with the drudgery of swimming (which he hates), upper-body exercises, stretching, running and endless rehab on the knee with ice, weights and air boots. Vermeil's two-a-days in July were more fun than swimming. But Bergey's knee started to come around, just as Bunting's had. And when the Eagles opened camp at West Chester State College last month, there was Bergey on the field wearing his old No. 66.
He started slowly, and nobody pushed him, least of all Vermeil, who had stayed out of Bergey's off-season program. But it was Vermeil, finally, who told Bergey it was time to put on the pads and get some contact. Two days after the Eagles' win in Buffalo and four days before the Jet game, with all the camp watching out of the corner of its eye, Bergey slammed Running Back Billy Campfield to the ground early in his first drill. There were cries of "Bubba, Bubba!" which is both Bergey's nickname and what he affectionately calls his teammates.
Speculation on whether Bergey would play against the Jets was rife all week. The feeling was that he would see some action, if only because the Jet game was the Eagles' only preseason contest at home, but there was a difference of opinion. Vermeil felt Bergey hadn't looked strong enough in the drills, but he ultimately acceded to the wishes of Bergey and Defensive Coordinator Marion Campbell. Vermeil makes few decisions about the defense, so he let Campbell make that one.
Bergey was like a kid on Christmas Eve the night before the game. He went to bed at 10, fell asleep at one, and got up at five. By 3:30 p.m., four hours before kickoff, he was making a pest of himself in the Eagle dressing room. "Otho [Davis, the head trainer] took me back and laid me in a tub of salt water," says Bergey. "It's a little gimmick he has to settle people down."
It worked for a while but, standing in the tunnel before the game, Bergey hugged teammate Charlie Johnson and attempted to kiss LeMaster through his face mask. Now that's being pumped up. Though the Eagles were receiving, their defensive team was announced and, in a fine moment of theater, the Vet erupted when No. 66 was among the starters.
Bergey got off to a good start. During the Jets' first series, he and Defensive End Claude Humphrey hurried Quarterback Richard Todd into an interception by Free Safety Brenard Wilson. On the next play from scrimmage, the Eagles' Wilbert Montgomery ran 26 yards for a touchdown. Then, on the Jets' next series, Bergey forced the Gaines fumble, and two plays later the Eagles had their second touchdown, on a three-yard pass from Ron Jaworski to Harold Carmichael. In the old days it took Eagle teams a full season to capitalize on two turnovers.
Bergey played the rest of the half, longer than he expected, but admittedly his performance was only adequate. He was frisky enough to get into a minor scuffle with Jet Center Joe Fields, and once he brought Todd crashing to earth after the quarterback had released the ball.
"The ref told me, 'If you would've hit him full speed, I would've thrown the flag,' and I said, 'Ref, you should've thrown it 'cause that is full speed.' "
Bergey was only half joking. But he didn't react well on certain running plays and overran a couple of sweeps. "I wasn't thinking out there like I should," he says. "I wasn't into the game situations. At any time if someone would've asked me the down and yardage, I couldn't have told them."
His biggest problem, as everyone expected, was retreating to play the deep-hook passing lanes. "The hardest thing for him is going to be getting into the pass drop, planting and driving toward the ball," says Bunting. "He's got to realize that he can do those things. Bill has great strength. When I built my knee back up, there was no way it was as strong as Bill's is now. He'll realize, sooner or later, that his knee's never going to feel the same, so he's got to live with it. Right now, it's all up here." At this he taps his head.