NFL Players Are Different From You and Me

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It's really difficult for the casual fan to understand just how incredibly, physically demanding the game of football is at the professional level.
If you're lucky enough to have the bird's eye view that I had for 35 years, on the sidelines, at the practice field, in the press box...
then you saw it first hand.
The first time you see a receiver with the skin on the palm of his hand split open because the pass he just caught from the quarterback was thrown so hard it turned the football into a weapon.
My first year covering the NFL, 1973, I shot sideline film at Dallas Cowboys games for WFAA-TV in Dallas, where I worked for Verne Lundquist, one of the best sportscasters in the business, then and now.
What surprised me the most from the sideline were two things; 1) the speed and, 2) the sound.
Things at the NFL level happen in terms of split seconds.
These guys are all huge, and yet they all move with a quickness that belies their size.
You had to maintain perpetual alertness on the sideline, or you'd find yourself underneath a running back who just headed out of bounds.
The speed you see from the sidelines also gives you a much better appreciation of the job the game officials do.
Until you've seen it up close, let me assure you, you could not have made the call better than the official.
No way.
Later in my career, when I was one of the radio announcers for the Houston Oilers, I was conducting a post-game locker room live interview with Mike Barber, a big, tough tight end.
As we spoke, Mike cut the tape off his ankles that all players have applied for run support.
As he sliced the tape away, I noticed that the sole of his foot, from the heel to the spot where the toes joined, was bright, brilliant purple.
I disconnected my microphone and asked Mike what had happened.
"I tore a tendon in the bottom of my foot," he told me.
"When?" "Wednesday?" "And you played today," I asked in disbelief.
And I practiced all week, too.
" I stood there, gawking, my jaw probably hanging down.
"How could you stand it?" "Well," he calmly explained in his southern speech, "the trainers take a syringe and they fill it up with Novocain, and then they put this long needle on it and stick the needle into the bottom of the foot.
And if you can stand the pain of the needle, you can play, because nothing is as bad as the pain of that needle going into your foot.
" I still couldn't grasp the concept.
"Doesn't that make your foot numb?" I asked him.
"Up to the knee.
" "Then how can you run?" Mike grinned the grin of the tough guy.
"They don't pay me to sit on the bench.
" NFL football players are very different from you and me.

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