- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"Next week I looked at the films. Watching them you start wondering how much more your body can take. You're not thinking of years at a point like that, you're thinking of how many more games. You're thinking about that one play where you can't properly protect yourself, that one play everyone dreads.
"I'd see a guy get hit and go off the field, and I'd flinch. I'd ask myself why. It could be fatigue; maybe he wasn't as sharp as he could be. Or maybe he saw something the defense did that made him do something different. Something made him vulnerable.
"I realized that to function the way I have, I've got to keep my body and mind in a position where they'd function together so everything would still be sharp. Improvising and going on my own is part of it, relying on the instincts that have taken me this far. Plus conditioning, never allowing myself to get in that vulnerable position.
"I hear guys saying, 'I can make it another year, another two years.' They don't know that they're just dragging it out. They can't see it, and often those are the people who get hurt. I'll know it. I won't let it happen to me. Never."
So as the Bears proceed into the 1982 season, with their brand-new coach and brand-new offense, the question remains—do they have the tools to take some of the pressure off Payton? There are no new faces on their offensive line, and they've lost an old one—Tackle Ted Albrecht, whose recurring back problems make him questionable for any action at all this year. Ditka recognizes the problem and says he could end up trading a draft choice, and a high one, for a proven veteran lineman.
McMahon hasn't emerged as a threat to Vince Evans. Early in camp the rookie came up with tendinitis in his right knee, to go with his left one, which was hyper-extended in a BYU game last year and now carries a brace. And last week he developed soreness in his throwing arm. Evans admits he still needs to acquire some touch and learn to control his high hard one, but he's a gifted athlete, and he has had some fine moments. With proper coaching, who knows?
And Walter Payton carries on, a blocker, a punisher, a complete football player in the finest of Chicago Bear traditions. As Jim Finks says, he has the skins on the wall.