Most guys didn't do much during the strike, but there's a rookie on our team named Steve Jordan who has an engineering degree, and he went right downtown and got a very good job as an engineer. Jordan went to Brown so, naturally, we call him Ivy, and if anybody ever has a question, whether or not Jordan is involved in the conversation, he'll get asked for the answer. Like, "Hey Ivy, how many miles is it to Denver?" Or, "Ivy, what's 8½ of $93,500?" And the thing is, he's usually right, too. Once when he was wrong, I said, "You see, Ivy, you should've gone to Harvard."
The guy who had the best deal during the strike was Curtis Rouse, another rookie. We call him Boo Boo. He and Jordan live together. Jordan supported him, and Rouse, who started the strike weighing slightly less than 300, ate. He gained about 20 pounds. Today he asked, "Ahmad, can they cut weight off you?"
I said, "No, Boo Boo, but they can staple your stomach."
Actually, the only guy on the whole team who really looks the worse for wear is Dave Huffman. I told him today that we all appreciated what he had done for us as the player rep, but that didn't exactly pep him up.
Of course, I know there's been some talk that we're all coming back to action without sufficient preparation, but none of us believe that. Nobody is any more worried about injury than ever before. Our bodies are mature, in excellent condition. If you think about it, eight weeks is a drop in the bucket physically in the life of a pro football player. Think how often it happens that somebody comes back from an injury after eight weeks—and nobody makes anything of that.
After all, we don't ever practice for contact. When we came to camp this summer, after being away from football seven months, we played our first exhibition after only nine days of workouts and one short passing scrimmage. If you practiced getting hit, you'd only get hurt more in the process. It's like remembering how to ride a bicycle—or maybe remembering how to fall off one. Whenever I practice and I catch a ball with a lot of guys around me, I just register somewhere: Well, if this were a real game, I'd be hit now, so you're prepared when it is a real game.
They really got me at practice today. They all bet me I couldn't stay quiet for three minutes. Steve Riley, the tackle, the poor guy who has to stand next to me in the huddle, came running over and said, "I want some of that action." I haven't heard Steve say that many words in the seven years I've been here. They won, too. But it wasn't fair. Sammy White followed around after me, sneaking tippy-toes, listening to hear if I was talking under my breath. And Sammy's a very sane person, too. None of us would have acted like this four days ago. I don't think you can be a part of a team and be grown-up, no matter how old you are and no matter what you do when you're not playing.
Thought for today: In our meetings, the rookie nearest the door is in charge of the light switch. Curtis Rouse won the honor tonight. He was the tiredest-looking guy on the team, and Jim Hough and I agreed that Curtis would fall asleep during the films. But as soon as the film ended and Burnsy said "Lights," Curtis flipped that switch right on. I think there's an extra ingredient in football players that makes them look involved as soon as a film ends. And, if you're going to last as a pro, you have to have answers, too. The best football players have answers. That's what coaches need. The top answer so far this season was Tommy Kramer's. We were watching films and Burnsy asked him why half the team went offside on a play. "Well," Tommy said, "half of them thought it was supposed to be on hut-one and the other half on hut-two." Great answer. World-class answer. I guess that's why Tommy's a quarterback.
FRIDAY, NOV. 19: Pies
The oldest player on the Minnesota Vikings—me—turned 33 today, and we have a tradition that the birthday boy is fair game for some kind of trick. At our first meeting this morning, Les Steckel, the receivers coach, put three numbers up on the board—17, 14, 10. "What's that mean?" he asked. Now, what it means is 17 yards down on a comeback pattern, 14 on a sideline, 10 for a quick out. But right away, Wade Wilson, a backup quarterback, says, "Add them up, you get Rashad's age."