Currie, who has learned his trade well, thinks a great deal about his responsibilities as a corner linebacker and studies opposing teams carefully. "It takes three or four years before you can play this position well," he says. "We get the defense and lineup, and I always go over the situation: the down, the yardage, the personnel, the score, how late it is in the game. After a few years of looking at the same clubs, you begin to understand the quarterback's pattern of thinking."
Forester, more conservative than Currie, makes a conscious effort not to depend on a pattern.
"I think about the situation and what the club we're playing has done in other games, but I never depend on it," he says. Forester is a rather quiet, slow-speaking Texan who played college football at Southern Methodist. He is in his ninth season as a professional—three of them All-Pro. "I try to react to the play as it develops. When you try to anticipate, you can get in trouble. Like in the championship game against the Eagles last year."
Philadelphia had scored once on the Packers on a slant-out pass from deep in Green Bay territory. It had penetrated deep again; the down, the position on the field and the tactical situation were almost the same as on the earlier play.
"I remembered the slant-out," Forester says. "I figured they would try it again, and I watched the end for a split second and then saw the sweep coming. But by then the end had an outside position and could block me. The sweep went all the way for a touchdown because I tried to anticipate and I was wrong." That moment of hesitation that put Forester out of position is the bugaboo of a corner linebacker.
"You don't have enough margin of error to allow for hesitation," Currie says. "You have to be able to execute your assignment instantly. The unpardonable sin in pro football is to blow an assignment. You should never make a mental error; you should always know what you're going to do and do it immediately. The whole idea of the offense is to create that moment of doubt in your mind, to cause hesitation that allows a blocker to get to you or a pass receiver to get the step or so he needs to beat you."
Since their assignment often requires them to tackle the best ballcarriers on the opposing teams, the corner linebackers make a serious study of the running habits of the backs.
"We looked at movies of Jim Brown over and over before we played Cleveland," Currie says. "Of course he is a great runner. He does one thing that gets him extra yardage time and again. He gets hit—a good tackle, arms around his legs—then he relaxes and the tackler relaxes and Brown steps out of his arms and goes on."
To an observer it would appear that the hardest play for a corner linebacker to cover would be the halfback option pass, the play in which a halfback takes a handoff, swings wide to the strong side, then either throws or runs, depending upon the reaction of the defense.
"That's not too bad," Currie says. "The corner linebacker has to play it like a run. You have to come across and force the play, make the halfback throw. The guy who has a tough job on that play is the safety on that side. The tight end blocks, and the safety reads run and comes up fast; then the tight end slips off the block and goes into the hole left by the safety coming up. If the halfback has time, he can hit the end in the clear. It's tough for the safety to recover and get back in time to knock down that pass."