Atkins #3

In this part of an interview with famed Defensive End Doug Atkins, more personal stories from his football playing days are discussed, along with examinations of his relationships with his teammates and coaches. He also reflects on his days with the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears, while reciting a few anecdotes that he posits have been embellished over the years.

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01:03Copy video clip URL Legendary Defensive End Doug Atkins continues telling a story concerning a time during his years with the Cleveland Browns when an ulcer in his stomach caused him to lose nearly 20 pounds in a week. Though he was considerably lighter than he was when he began the season, Atkins was still asked to play. After a few games, Atkins says that he was replaced by Carlton Massey, and played sparingly during the rest of the season. During this time, Atkins never weighed more than 234 pounds, unable to gain back the weight he lost from the ulcer.

01:47Copy video clip URL 1955 was the year that Atkins was traded from the Cleveland Browns to the Chicago Bears, he explains, weighing in at 248 pounds during his first week of play. Though he was told to increase his weight to 260 pounds, Atkins says that he stubbornly refused. He then proceeds to tell about the way that players were fined for not meeting certain weight requirements in the weigh-ins every Thursday during the season.

03:03Copy video clip URL Atkins says that as he recovered from his ulcer, he began to gain weight until he reached 265 pounds. He then talks about the sometimes drastic measures that he and other players on the team would take in order to cut weight for the Thursday weigh-ins. “We’d go in, take a steam bath, we’d take laxatives, we’d take water pills. We wouldn’t eat even on Thursdays at all to make our weight.”

04:05Copy video clip URL Atkins recalls a few times when the players would cheat during weigh-ins by taping half-dollars to the scales to change how it was read. “We spent more times trying to mess up the scales than we did playing football.”

04:49Copy video clip URL When the players were fined, Atkins says, head coach George Halas kept the money. Atkins explains Halas’s theory about the way that he thought players should cut weight as they got older. Atkins states that Halas believed that veteran players should lose two pounds every week before a game.

05:53Copy video clip URL Atkins talks about the ways in which he had to adjust to George Halas’s style of coaching. He tells an anecdote about a time when Halas, looking at film of Atkins playing defense, told him to “play more like [Gino] Marchetti.” Atkins, knowing that Marchetti, a defensive end, had loaned Halas $50,000 the year before, retorted, “Coach, why don’t you loan me $50,000 . . . put me in a 4-3 [formation], and I’ll show you a Marchetti!”

07:11Copy video clip URL Despite having a fairly good relationship with coach Halas, Atkins says that he was not given many chances to perform. “He’d want results out of me, but he wouldn’t put me in a situation to get results.” He then goes on to talk about his own style of playing as a defensive end in formations he was not accustomed to. “You don’t play 17 years by doing what you want to.”

08:42Copy video clip URL Atkins discusses the occasional disputes that would occur between he and Halas at times. Atkins recalls a time when Halas asked him to be a practice player at a time when both of his ankles were injured. Atkins agreed, getting shots in his ankles and practicing while hurt all week. The next year at training camp, he says, he heard Halas making fun of him as he practiced. “When you play a game, they judge you as being 100%.” It was after this experience that Atkins decided that he would no longer go to practice if he was injured during the week.

10:34Copy video clip URL Atkins addresses the rumor that he did not like practice, which he denies by explaining that the fans of the game are unaware of the suffering that players go through at any given time. “People don’t really know what we go through and what we do.”

11:03Copy video clip URL Admitting that he does not keep up with current football games the way he used to, Atkins contrasts the ways that football was played during his era with the way it’s played presently.”I can’t tell what’s happened to football . . . I can’t figure out whether it’s football, track or wrestling.”

12:40Copy video clip URL Atkins defends the football referees, explaining that as the rules of the game change, they are the ones that have to make the correct calls. He cites the commissioner’s desire to make football more of a spectator’s sport as the main reason for the ever-changing rules.

13:42Copy video clip URL Atkins discusses the ways in which some of the stories he’s been included in have likely been exaggerated. He tells an anecdote about a time when he brought his pet bulldog to training camp and ordered his dog to chase Richie Petitbon on his first day at camp. Though he recalls bringing the bulldog and having him rush Petitbon, he believes that other versions of the story were embellished by his teammates.

14:19Copy video clip URL In another story about his pet bulldog, Atkins tells about a time when he went New Orleans to play for the Saints and had the dog with him. He explains that Sports Illustrated had come by to interview him, but the bulldog made the front page of the magazine. Atkins discusses the nature of story embellishment, how after a story is told so many times, people may have a tendency to exaggerate certain details.

15:03Copy video clip URL When asked if he is the same person he was years ago, Atkins says, “I think so. I like to joke and cut-up and ride people and I enjoyed football; it was tough work.” Getting on the subject of his teammates and contemporaries, Atkins says that he can go almost anywhere in the country and find someone he’s played football with. He counts this sense of lasting fraternity to be one of the advantages of his football playing years.

15:49Copy video clip URL Atkins tells a story about a time when he and some other players came into contact with a few men that they thought were insurance agents, but were revealed to be men from a detective agency.

19:46Copy video clip URL End of tape.



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