July 9, was the day that the 1969 Redskins were to start
training camp at
That reputation came from comments such as those made by
Henry Jordan, a player for Lombardi in
"He treats us all the same," said
Especially notorious was the grass drill. The players would
run in place, knees pumping up high and then, on Lombardi's command, flop onto
the ground. Failure to spring back up immediately and resume the fervent
churning of the legs would usually result in a public tongue-lashing by the
"There are two ways of motivation," said Sam Huff, who had come out of retirement to become a player-coach under Lombardi. "One is through fear and the other is through group motivation. Lombardi motivated through fear."
A big fear that players had was for their jobs. Being cut
was always a clear and present danger for those who did not do things
Lombardi's way. Even being a recent first-round draft pick didn't grant any
immunity. When fullback Ray McDonald showed up late for the team's first
One player whose job appeared to be safe was quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. Not only did he have Hall of
Fame talent, but also he fully bought in to Lombardi's methods. The signal
caller who NFL Films' John Facenda once described as possessing "a hairline
going north and a belt line going south" had once blown off his head coach's
suggestion that he improve his conditioning, telling Otto Graham, "I don't
throw the ball with my stomach." Now, however, he was flopping on the
Nobody was spared the wrath of Lombardi, not even his own flesh and blood. His brother Joe had recently been hired by a sporting goods company and thought he would take advantage of his family connection to bring a couple of the company's executives out onto the practice field. Lombardi ejected all three of them, using more of that language that made the secretaries blush.
As players such as McDonald and some rookies who packed up
and bolted in the middle of the night fell by the wayside, replacements had to
be found. Vince Lombardi wasn't a mere raving tyrant; he had an uncanny knack
for finding talent. The coach was chatting with Jurgensen after the first
practice when Lombardi pointed to a rookie running back out of
As camp wore on Brown continued to impress the coach with his ability, but the back always seemed to be a half step slow getting off the ball. "Does that Brown hear," Lombardi asked one night at a coaches' meeting. They decided to find out and, sure enough, a test revealed that Brown was quite deaf in one ear.
The team fitted Brown's helmet with a hearing aid that transferred sound from the side of his head with the bad ear into the good ear and the results were immediate and impressive. A couple of days later Brown scored two touchdowns in the exhibition season opener at RFK Stadium. A few days after that, assistant coach George Dickson saw Lombardi with his arm draped around Brown's shoulders. Later on, knowing that Lombardi doesn't show such affection to just anyone, Dickson went up to Brown and said, "Son, you've got this ball club made." Brown went on to rush for 888 yards in his rookie season and 5,875 in his seven-year career.
With Brown and a fit Jurgensen in starring roles, Lombardi
led the Redskins to a