In the past 20 months, A.J. Duhe, the Dolphins' former linebacker, has had five operations—three on his left knee and one on each shoulder. "I'll always remember the scene two off-seasons ago," says the 29-year-old Duhe, who may try one more comeback. "I had just had shoulder surgery, and I wasn't quite healed from knee surgery. My wife, Frances, was running some errands, and I was baby-sitting our son. He wanted me to play with him, and I couldn't move. He didn't understand, so he started crying. And I thought. My God, he thinks I don't love him. I felt so helpless that I sat there and cried."
Robert Jackson, one of the Browns' messenger guards, got a surprise at a recent practice. When he arrived in the huddle with a play, quarterback Gary Danielson reached into his sock, pulled out a dollar bill and gave it to him for a tip.
NFL teams go to incredible lengths to gain even the tiniest advantage over the opposition. Some of their latest devices:
•Rams players strengthen their fingers, hands and forearms using "an ancient Chinese method," according to trainer Garrett Geimont. They lower their hands into a 20-gallon garbage can filled with 200 pounds of rice and squeeze to their hearts' content.
•The Cowboys tested their players' reaction time by having them play a video game. And in the off-season, players learned to juggle to improve hand-eye coordination. Randy White and Danny White swear by the teachings of a Thai kick boxer. Randy's legs are stronger; Danny has more mobility. Kicker Rafael Septien isn't so sure—he almost tore a leg muscle trying the Thai technique.
•After practice in training camp, the Bears cool off by sitting in 55-gallon garbage cans filled with ice water.
•To keep the swelling down on jammed fingers, Colts players wrap their fingers in green aloe cream. Says Barry Krauss, "My little girl sees my green fingers and expects me to turn into The Incredible Hulk."
Mike Ditka on his evolution as an NFL head coach: "I took winning and losing personally, and that's wrong. When you take it personally, you're not going to have control of yourself. There were a couple of events like when I got so depressed I couldn't sleep, and when I broke my hand [he hit a locker after an '83 loss to the Colts]. If nothing else came out of my coaching, I felt I could prove these things could be controlled or curbed. I really think the evolution happened in the last year or two. As you win, you become more moderate in your feelings."
Roy Green, the St. Louis Cardinals' wide receiver, hadn't practiced in two weeks because of a painful, stubbed big right toe. Then his mother, Austene Dockery, called from Magnolia, Ark. with a cure: Soak the foot nightly in a pail of hot water with a couple of tablespoons of Epsom salts and a capful of bleach. Says Green, "The bleach seemed to draw a lot of stiffness out of the toe."
Mrs. Dockery's magic potions are nothing new in St. Louis. A couple of seasons ago, when tight end Doug Marsh had a sore ankle, she told him to wrap it in red clay, soaked with vinegar, the night before a game. "He was ready to go the next day," says Green, who has tried every one of his mom's remedies—except one. "For colds and flu, she recommends cow-chip tea," Green says. "My grandfather swears by it, but I won't touch the stuff."
During the Saints' 20-13 defeat of Tampa Bay on Sept. 22, New Orleans defensive end Bruce Clark threatened to end the career of Bucs' offensive tackle Ron Heller, and later he decked Heller. Is that any way to treat a fellow Penn Stater?
"I just don't know what happened," said Clark, who expects to be fined by the league for his behavior. "I was uncontrollable.... But [Heller] was poking his fingers in Rickey [Jackson's] face mask and pushing guys who were standing around the pile all afternoon.
"It ruined my image," Clark added. "Here I am trying to be a nice, low-key guy. Now they're going to put me in the same book with some of the other fools in the league."
Publicly, the Raiders are saying that quarterback Jim Plunkett, who dislocated his left shoulder against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 22, will be out for 10 weeks. Privately, they fear that after 15 seasons in the NFL the 37-year-old's career may be over.
After giving Plunkett an arthrogram last week. Dr. Robert Rosenfeld, an orthopedic surgeon, hinted that Plunkett may need an operation. Raider officials concurred. The Raiders' concerned coach, Tom Flores, says, 'The doctors want to see first if it will heal naturally."
Says the righthanded Plunkett, who had separated his left shoulder three times previously and who has also had surgery for a torn rotator cuff in that left shoulder, "It's wired down so well that the ball and socket were the only things that could go."
SOME THINGS ARE DUCKY IN D.C.
Dave Butz, the Washington Redskins' 35-year-old All-Pro defensive tackle, stands 6'7", weighs 295 pounds and wears a size 12½ EEEEEEE shoe. His hands, though, have a certain delicacy that emerges when Butz sits at his workbench at home and creates duck and goose decoys.
"I wanted a hobby that would help keep my hands limber when I grew older," he says. His ducks, mostly mallards, take as many as 100 hours to create. The geese may require as many as 400 hours of work.
A jewelry store in Reston, Va. sells Butz's decoys at prices ranging from $65 to $360. "That is," Butz says, "if my wife. Candy, lets them out of the house. She keeps seeing them and saying, 'Gee, that's nice. Let's keep it.' We're swamped with ducks."
Butz has decoyed a few backs over the years.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Guards Petey Perot and Jim Rourke, who joined New Orleans last week, and center Joel Hilgenberg, in his first start, helped the Saints gain 175 yards rushing in a 20-17 upset of the 49ers.
DEFENSE: The Chiefs' free safety Deron Cherry tied an NFL record with four interceptions—including one in the end zone to prevent a Seahawks TD—as Kansas City easily defeated Seattle, 28-7.