After an unusually humid late afternoon game against the Jets on Sept. 28 in Indianapolis, Colts tackle Kevin Call crumbled to the floor of the locker room with a severe case of cramps due to dehydration. "It never happened to me before," says Call, who is 6'7", 288 pounds. "All my muscles cramped up. It started in my legs, went to my stomach and then to my neck. It really scared me. The trainers started rubbing me with ice and I started to relax some." Call was hooked up to an intravenous bag filled with glucose, sodium, potassium and other electrolytes, to quickly replace the fluids he had lost.
By halftime in Atlanta's 37-35 win over Dallas on Sept. 21, five Falcons had ended up on tables in the locker room with IV bags attached to their arms. The temperature on the Texas Stadium field: 130°. "The locker room looked like a M*A*S*H hospital," says Charles Harrison, the Falcons' team physician.
On the plane ride home, three Falcons sat in their seats, IVs dangling overhead. "You just bend a coat hanger, hang the bottle and let 'er rip," Harrison says.
The use of IV fluids after an extremely hot, humid game is not new; almost every team trainer travels with IV bags. It's just that the procedure is getting a lot more publicity. "We beat Dallas," says Atlanta offensive tackle Mike Kenn, "so everybody figures it was because of the IVs."
When an athlete gets to the point of heat exhaustion—signs include ashen skin, nausea, dizziness and cramps—he must quickly replace the fluids and electrolytes he has lost. It is not unusual to see road racers and marathon runners using IVs after competition. Football players, particularly those who play in the South, are common casualties of the heat. The Saints used 100 liters of IV solution during training camp this summer.
"Football players not only carry around 20 pounds worth of equipment, but more of their body surface is covered than any other athlete," says Charles Virgin, the Dolphins' team doctor. "Only their face, neck and part of their forearms are exposed. Their helmets trap the heat, thus keeping their internal cooling systems from functioning."
Particularly vulnerable to overheating are offensive linemen, who may lose as much as 15 pounds of water weight in a three-hour game, and defensive backs, who run more than any other players.
Doctors agree that the best way to replace body fluids is by drinking water or special electrolyte-mineral solutions. But, Harrison says, "sometimes players just can't drink that much fast enough," so the doctor administers an IV.
Virgin, however, cautions against using IVs casually. "Only where medical circumstances warrant it," he says. "Generally speaking, through proper instruction you should be able to prevent players from getting to that point.
"We go through about 800 pounds of ice each home game. We wrap the players' feet, necks and faces in iced towels. We teach them how to keep cool—to up their intake of fluids the week prior to the game, to refrain from alcohol two days before. And we remind them continuously on the sidelines to drink fluids."
Unlike their NFL colleagues, officials in the Canadian Football League don't have to worry about instant replay second-guessing them. Still, they are concerned about errors.
At halftime of the Sept. 27 game between Hamilton and Ottawa, some friends of umpire Bill Wright ventured down to the officials' locker room. They knocked on the door.
"Yeah?" barked someone in reply.
"Ah...is Wright in there?"
"Nobody's right in here, pal."
The Denver Bronco players loved Barney Chavous, their thoughtful, sensitive defensive end from South Carolina. They teased him about his thick southern accent. Defensive line coach Stan Jones made up weekly philosophical sayings for the locker room bulletin board and dubbed them words of wisdom from Barney Chavous.
But last summer head coach Dan Reeves told Chavous that the 35-year-old probably wouldn't make the 45-man roster. So, after 13 seasons and 182 games—more than any other player in Bronco history—Chavous chose to retire rather than be released. He quietly said goodbye to a few close teammates, packed his bags and went home to South Carolina. He hasn't been heard from since.
His former Bronco teammates miss him. Bronco equipment manager Dan Bill took it upon himself to retire Chavous's locker. His nameplate remains taped across the top, and a pair of shoes rests on the floor. "We're keeping it open in remembrance," Bill says. "He's the Duke. We'll keep it like that the rest of the season. We can't have somebody spend 13 years here and just forget about him."
Linebacker Jesse Solomon, the Minnesota Vikings' 12th-round draft pick, the 51st linebacker and the 318th player chosen in '85, is an early-season sensation. He is now the leading tackier on special teams.
What makes Solomon's success story so amazing is his circuitous route to the pros. For starters, he quit the Madison (Fla.) High football team after his junior year. "I was a maverick," he says. "I was independent. I wanted to play by my rules. I used the time off to better myself academically."
But because he had quit the team, no colleges offered him an athletic scholarship. So, Solomon went to North Florida Junior College and played two years on an intramural flag-football team called the Funk Buddies. "We cleaned up," he says. "We won the school championship twice."
As a junior, Solomon was a walk-on at Florida State. But he failed to win a scholarship, started only one game—as a junior—and was a backup his senior season. "I could have been first team, but I refused to go through the off-season weight program," says Solomon, who graduated with a degree in political science and a coaching certificate. "I kept striving. I wanted to know about the world outside my home. How did people acquire money?"
A couple of weeks after the draft, Solomon walked into the office of Mike Lynn, the Vikings' general manager, unannounced.
"You doing my contract?" Solomon asked. Lynn explained that Jeff Diamond, Lynn's assistant, handled contracts of low-round draft picks.
"Well, you should," Solomon said. "Because I'm going to make your team."
"Who are you?" Lynn said.
Mark Clayton, the Dolphins All-Pro receiver, was having trouble seeing the ball in training camp. "I could see it being released from Dan Marino's hands but when it got close—5 or 10 yards from me—I couldn't see it clearly," Clayton remembers. "I was dropping a lot of easy balls."
So Clayton had his eyes checked and found he was nearsighted. Now he wears contacts under his protective goggles. Through five games, he had caught 24 passes for 497 yards and 4 touchdowns, and his 20.7 yards-per-catch average was second in the NFL. "Last year, I'd have tremendous headaches after games. My eyes were extremely tired," Clayton says. "I had been straining them and I didn't know it. I couldn't even judge the ball's speed."
In the first four years of his life, Chiefs rookie punter Lewis Colbert went through four operations and had to wear five-pound casts and braces on both of his legs—all to correct his clubfeet. Doctors said he would never walk normally. But Frances Colbert, his mother, widowed when Lewis was four, encouraged her son to take up sports—mostly baseball—to give him a feeling of freedom. His doctors, however, forbade him to play football. "They felt that if I broke my leg, it wouldn't heal correctly," Colbert says.
As a sophomore and junior, Colbert was the manager of the football team at Glenwood Academy in Phenix City, Ala. "I'd hang out on the sidelines during practice and punt footballs," he says. The summer before his senior year Colbert couldn't stand it anymore. He tried out for—and made—the team as the punter, using his right foot.
That foot is a size smaller than his left; his right leg is 1½ inches shorter. Still, Colbert averaged 42.1 yards per punt. When he got to Auburn, he decided he wanted to continue with football. He was a walk-on, but by his sophomore season he had earned a scholarship. As a senior he was fourth in the nation in gross yards (45.8), second in net yards (42.9) and an All-America.
The Chiefs drafted him in the eighth round. Colbert, who beat out veteran Jim Arnold, is averaging 40.5 yards per punt, and has had one punt with an incredible hang time of 5.43 seconds.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: 49er wide receiver Jerry Rice caught 6 passes for 172 yards and 3 touchdowns—(6 on the season) tying a club record shared by four others—as San Francisco defeated the Colts 35-14.
DEFENSE: Eagles linebacker Garry Cobb had 9 tackles, 4 sacks, knocked down a pass, recovered a fumble and caused another in Philly's 16-0 victory over the previously undefeated Atlanta Falcons.
The Dallas Cowboys-Washington Redskins game this Sunday is one of the most famed rivalries in pro football. However, it is a relatively new matchup—the teams first met in 1960—and it is not that competitive: Dallas leads the series 30-20-2. Here are the 15 most competitive rivalries in the NFL (50 or more meetings):
San Diego-Kansas City
LA Rams-Green Bay
NY Jets-New England