Joe Namath has had his cardiovascular system regenerated at age 34 by the Los Angeles Rams and he is feeling so frisky that he is making a promise reminiscent of his guarantee of a victory for his former New York Jets over the Baltimore Colts in the third Super Bowl.
Undismayed by the Rams' 1-5 record in exhibition games, Namath says, 'This club is teed off and we're going to take it out on the Falcons."
It would hardly be an upset with the Rams 13-point favourites over the team they fattened up on last year by 30-14 and 59-0.
Pat Haden won four of five games as a starter for the Rams last season, took them into the National Football Conference championship game as a rookie and had better statistics than Namath during the 1977 exhibition season, but coach Chuck Knox, an assistant with the Jets when Namath was at his peak, decided to start Namath at Atlanta on Suday.
If the decision is justified there will be some credit due team physician, Dr. Robert Kerlan, and trainer Gary Thuthill.
Namath is said to be in the best condition since he first was required to wear knee braces. Because he obviously was unable to run himself into shape, Namath's cardiovascular system (involving the heart and blood vessels) was revitalized by swimming.
His legs were locked by a plastic device so that they could not be bent in the water, so as to prevent irritation, from kicking or jerking them. To build up his wind and strengthen his arms and upper torso the quarterback had to stay afloat without the use of his legs.
As to his other qualifications as the starter over Haden, general manager Don Klosterman gave an explanation of some of Knox's probable thinking.
"You can do anything you want with statistics," Klosterman said, "and it is not always what you see on the field that counts. Joe has all the wisdom of exerience. He is 10 years older than Haden.
"You can't bring a player with Namath's backgound off the bench to be the quarterback. What if we started Haden and did that . . . would that mean to the team that Haden was the regular quarterback or Namoth? The players would be wondering who their leader was.
"Joe is more the leader and that is why he is the starter. That is what you have to think of for the league opener. Namath would have completed six out of seven passes in each of two games if it had not been for dropped throws.
"We have reminded Haden that a quarterback must have mental toughness and this is one of the challenges he has to face up to."
In a recent interview, Haden was asked what he thought of Namath replacing him as the starter?
"It was not bad news, just disappointing news," said Haden. "I feel that getting Namath was good for me and will help the club. He is an interesting personality. He only figures to be around for a couple years. It is not as if the Rams got another young quarteback like Dan Pastorini of the Oilers."
"Do you think Namath is any good?" Haden was asked.
"Yes, I do. I never saw him when he was at his best because I was a child then. He's a very good quarterback upstairs . . . intelligent."
Why had the Rams been so bad in the exhibitions?
"We're not intense, myself included. We're been waiting around for somebody else to do something . . . for big run of Harold Jackson to catch a long Pass . . ."
It was noted that coach Knox let the quarterbacks call the signals in the exhibition games but has decided to resume the play-calling on Sunday.
"And we were 1-5 in the exhibition season," Haden said, chuckling. "He wants more control of the game. I hope he does better than we did."