Despite his arm, Rick was a long way from making the starter list, although every team needs a third quarterback. In tests, and there had been many, he used to dazzle coaches with his arm. One day in Kansas City, Arnie watched Rick throw a ball at eighty yards and a few minutes later fire a bullet at about a hundred miles an hour.

Still, Arnie knew what most coaches now suspected: that Rick, for a football player, shunned contact. Not the haphazard contact, not the brief, harmless tackle of a quarterback trying to slip away. Rick rightly feared attacking tackles and charging linebackers.

In every game there is one or two occasions when a quarterback has an unmarked receiver, a split second to throw the ball, and a burly attacking player charging into the pocket with a roar without being blocked. The quarterback has two options: either bite the bullet, sacrifice himself, put the team in front, throw the damn ball, make the play and get crushed, or he can keep the ball, run and pray to see again daylight. Rick, since Arnie had watched him play, he had never, not once, put the team first. At the first hint of a quarterback tackle, Rick would shake and run wildly toward the touchline.

He called a nephew of the Rams owner, who answered the phone with an icy:

Arnie had spoken to about half of the NFL teams from Sunday until then, and the response from the Rams was usually the usual. Rick had no idea just how bland his career was over.

He glanced at a monitor and saw that their flight had been delayed. Just one more call, he promised himself. The last effort to find a job for Rick and then he would dedicate himself to his other players.

The clients were from Portland and although his last name was Webb and she was as white as a Swede, they both claimed to have Italian blood and were eager to see the old country of their origins.