I had forgot my shoes again, so I had to go out to the car to get them. Then we had our first meeting, watching films of the Tampa Bay game, our season opener. Both the teams we played in September used the 3-4, and so does Green Bay, which we play Sunday, so that's good for us. And Jerry Burns, our offensive coordinator, just started the meeting off as if nothing had happened. Coaches are always up for meetings.
Green Bay? People ask me what my greatest pressure situation ever was in football, and I answer: Green Bay. Only it was a Green Bay meeting. It was during the '75 preseason when I was with Buffalo. Lou Saban was the Bills' coach, and he's one of the great meeting coaches. Whenever Lou gave a speech I tried to memorize it in case I ever got into a war and had to fire a whole army up.
This particular time, the Packers had beaten us, and Saban was mad. I was sitting next to O.J. Simpson. That was my mistake. No coach was ever going to get mad at O.J. Later that year O.J. played a bad game, and so for the whole meeting after it Saban screamed at Jim Braxton, because Braxton was sitting next to O.J.
At the Green Bay meeting Saban was wearing khaki pants, with a real football coach's shirt and a cap, and he had a pencil stuck up under one side of his glasses, so it bounced up and down whenever he screamed. O.J. started to giggle, and I could feel myself getting ready to laugh. And I knew: If I laugh, I'm gone. This is serious. Green Bay has beaten us in preseason, and that is no laughing matter. And here I am, a new kid on the block, trying to get more money, and if I laugh, my career is over. And next to me, my friend O.J. is trying to make me laugh.
And then Saban lets it out another notch: He screams at the offensive line. They were called The Electric Company—remember that? He yells, "Electric Company? Electric Company, my ass—you guys blew a fuse!" And now I really can't stand it. I have to hold my hands up like blinders to keep from seeing O.J. And then Saban moves on to money and greedy players, which includes me, and his pencil is really bouncing now, and he hollers, "Money, money, money!—when you guys die, I'm going to stick a green flag in each of you, and it'll say, HE HAD SOME MONEY. Yeah, money, money, money!" And now I absolutely couldn't control myself, so all I could do was lay my head down and think serious things, sad things. I thought about people dying, everybody dying all over. And somehow I survived the meeting. But talk about pressure—that was my most ever.
After Burnsy's meeting came practice. It was indoors, under the bubble that covers part of our practice field, just helmets and shoulder pads. Bud told us he wasn't going to punish us, just work us as if it were a regular situation. Of course, normally we only have one practice a day during the season. We're having a second one this afternoon and a meeting tonight, just like we were in training camp. The first workout went surprisingly well—at least until Bud made us all run 10 40-yard sprints, gassers. I should have used those shoes some.
We broke for lunch. Scott Studwell started calling me Scuz in pointed reference to my beard. In the afternoon we worked in full gear. But you know, all day, there really had been no talk about the strike. Then, in the middle of afternoon practice, I looked up and saw David Huffman walking toward the field. Dave is our player rep and he was just back from New York, where he'd been for about a week for the negotiations. He was carrying a big athletic bag, and I screamed out, "Hey, Huffman, is that bag full of money?" And everybody laughed. Well, everybody but Dave laughed.
We had our last meeting of the day at 7:30. Just beforehand, bowing to public demand and peer pressure, I shaved off my beard. It hadn't been much of a beard, anyway.
Thought for today: Everybody probably figures that all the teams will stick to pretty basic stuff this Sunday. I doubt that. You can probably pull off something like a double reverse flea-flicker at a time like this when the defenses aren't so well prepared.
THURSDAY, NOV. 18: Hits