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As a consequence, I get a firm grip on myself before games now, so I won't ever do that sort of thing again.
Now what I strive to do, above all, is to get on a friendly basis with all linebackers, whatever their team, whether they're All-Pro or third-string. You never know. Jack Lambert [of the Steelers] and I were on a tour in Europe a few summers ago, and let me tell you, I bought a lot of drinks for Jack. At least with a guy like Jack you can see him inside his helmet. It's a little bit more reassuring that way. The problem is with these real dark black guys, because in a helmet you can't see much of them except their eyes. That Hugh Green in Tampa scares me the most of all. All you see is two mean eyes staring out. That's very disconcerting, Frank, very menacing.
I'm now coming into Mankato, a couple of hours south of the Twin Cities, so I'm going to have to stop taping. I don't want anybody to see me talking into this recorder because they'll think it's subversive. Anything you do different at a training camp is automatically suspicious, so I'm going to put this away now and concentrate on making a mean, ugly face. That'll show I've come to play. I've never really learned how to have a different face for the game from the one I've got for the rest of my life. I got thrown off a team in junior high for not wearing the right face.
But I'll tell you something about training camps. As much as I hate them, they're important. There are so many differences on a team that you could never manage to get through a whole season in a precision sport like football unless you had a camp in the beginning so you can tear everything down and be built back up as a team. The equivalent of spring training in baseball—where everybody lives a normal life in a hotel and goes to the beach after practice—just wouldn't work in football.
I almost forgot: Not only do I have to get my football face on, but I also have to get my first-day walk mastered. This is the same walk that every veteran player uses when he arrives in camp. It says: Look, I'm in great shape. And it's a terrific walk, but it takes some practice to get it straight.
Here's a thought for today: You can come into any pro football dining room and tell who the best players are. They're the ones who sit at the tables nearest the coaches. Security.
FRIDAY, JULY 30: Dean of the Vikings
I found out at the first team meeting last night that Ron Yary didn't come back. Now, you have to understand that football teams always have meetings. It's like that old joke: What's the difference between a drunk and an alcoholic? Drunks don't have to go to meetings. Really, we're all basically meeting-goers who play some football on the side.
But anyway, Frank, the reason it's worth mentioning that Ron isn't returning is that with him gone I'm the oldest guy on the team. Elder statesman. Dean of the Vikings.
And it occurred to me, lying in bed last night, that maybe Bud Grant will choose me to succeed Ron as the offensive captain. And I kept thinking about that, and suddenly I realized that I was thinking a lot about it because it must mean a lot to me. I would like to be named captain of the Minnesota Vikings because of the honor and for what it symbolizes—that I'm a leader and have a sense of responsibility—and even more for the fact that Bud would be acknowledging that these qualities exist in me.