Coach Ted Marchibroda of the Baltimore Colts, on the verge of tears, ended his weekly news conference abruptly today during a discussion of comments made by commissioner Pete Rozelle of the National Football League.
During a press box interview prior to Baltimore's 10-3 Monday night victroy over the Washington Redskins, Rozelle backed his officials over the number of penalty that coaching may be partly to blame.
"Some clubs have told me that a borderline blocking technique is taught," Rozelle said. "I'm not saying that holding is taught. Let's just say it's a borderline blocking technique."
Rozelle declined to name specific teams, but added: "Nobody ever told me that their club did it."
The commissioner's comments were relayed to Marchibroda today. At first, Marchibroda seemed shocked, and flailed his hands while seemingly searching for a reply.
But the more he thought, the more Rozelle's words seemed to hurt.
Does he think that's why we're 7-1?" Marchibroda said.
He was upset that any member of the coaching fratenity would be so maligned.
"We're here every night until midnight," Marchibroda said, "and then to have him say that. I haven't seen my family for six months."
The coach's voice was cracking by that time, and he left the Memorial Stadium meeting room in midsentence rather than stick around for the usual individual questioning.
Later, after emerging from his office adjacent to the locker room, Marchibroda was less emotional but still fuming.
"When he makes that kind of statement, he's wrong," Marchibroda said of Rozelle. "See what time he comes to work, what time he goes home, and how often he sees his family. I don't care whether you tell him or not."
In the locker room, Baltimore's All-Pro offensive tackle George Kunz was asked about the matter.
"No one has ever taught me to hold," the veteran said. "I have been told that if it's crucial to get a pass off and my opponent beats me flat, then I should do what I have to do to keep the quarterback from getting hurt. But no one has taught holding."
"To have the commissioner say something like that is incongruous with his job," Kunz said. "He has a lot of things to worry about, and that's not one of them."