The Boss comes striding into the office precisely at 9 a.m. immaculate and color-coordinated in a conservative tan suit, starched blue oxford shirt and paisley tie. The shoes shine brightly. Not a hair is out of place.
It is the Monday following a Redskin game, and The Boss - Chris Hanburger - has stopped by the Ford dealership he runs in College Park to take care of business.
There are messages to answer, deals to approve, meetings scheduled with several employes. It is a time to forget football, even if everyone who greets him over the next few hours just has to tell him what a wonderful game he played, how terrific the team looks, and oh yes, "Could you sign this piece of paper, it's for my son."
Hanburger almost always obliges, though he will insist on being asked please before pen touches paper and told thank you after he scrawls his autograph. Chances are excellent he will not smile, no matter what. You have heard all those stories about Chris Hanburger the grump and most of them are true. At Redskin Park, he grouses and grumbles his way through the day.
It is an image Hanburger has cultivated through the years, but his friends - yes, he does have a lot of friends - will tell you that Hanburger is a warm, decent human being. He just happens to be a slightly introverted man who likes his privacy.
Hanburger will tell you that himself.
"When a man stops pitching," he said, "that's when he's not happy. Maybe I feel that way because of my background. I grew up with the military system. I went into the army right out of high school. I just like things well organized."
He says the reason he does not often smile is the direct result of a knee in the face during a flag football game while he was in the service. The knee smashed the right side of his jaw, and the jaw apparently never healed properly. There are days when it hurts Hanburger to smile.
Yet, he says, "I don't really like to dwell on it. "It's nobody business but my own."
Hanburger minds his own business. He has cut back on the stream of public appearances he made in the early days of his career. He rarely eats out or goes to the movies.
"I'm just a private person," he said several times over the course of an hour-long interview. "It's just the way I am."
"Being in the public eye for so many years has probably driven me more into a shell than anything," he said. "I just don't enjoy going out to speak to groups or making apperances. To be quite frank, I think it has something to do with the way people in this country have gotten to be.
"Not everybody. But I tell you, nothing irritates me more than to have somebody shove a piece of paper in your face, with no please, no thank you. I just won't sign unless they do. It's just one of my principles.
"Of course it's nice to be recognized. It's flattering. But it's just my nature to leave the game on the field. I don't like to talk about football.I haven't been on the other side of the street, either. I can understand how people feel about us. Maybe I'm just not the guy for them to ask.
"Just because I play professional football doesn't mean I'm any different than anybody else.We're human beings. We do things everybody else does. I think it's fine for people to want to be associated with athletes. But there's no need to put us on any different level than they're on."
And there is no question that Hanburger has played football on a far higher level than most of his peers. Sam Huff, his former roommate and a close friend, says that Hanburger may well be the best outside linebacker ever to play the position. Certainly, Huff says, "He's the best blitzing linebacker I've ever seen."
Huff will tell you that Hanburger is really a pussycat away from the game.
"All that tough talk and complaining is just an act more than anything else," he said. "He'd like to be friendly, but he really doesn't know how. But he's a fine person, with a brilliant mind.
"The thing about Chris is he's so methodical. We used to call him 'The Colonel' and every time he'd walk by us we'd say, 'Hup two-three-four.' The guy actually brushes his teeth five and six times a day.
"But it also carries over to football. If you put up a game plan, I guarantee you he'll follow it 100 percent. If you tell him to go 12 yards deep at a 45-degree angle to certain spot, he'll be there.
"The only weakness he's got is his tackling. He tackles high and he's a shirt-grabber. He got his bell rung a few times early in his career so he doesn't stick his head in there. But he's so damned quick. He's the quickest linebacker I've ever seen. He's in great physical condition, and he very seldom gets hurt."
In 1977, Hanburger was hurt for most of the season. He underwent an emergency appendectomy late in training camp, then tore ligaments in his knee in the Tampa Bay game four weeks into the season. He never was healthy.
"It was something I've never experienced before in my life," Hanburger said. "It was just hard for me to believe what all the doctors were telling me. I just couldn't accept the fact that I couldn't run or cut. Yes, you do get into a little bit of a depressed state."
Hanburger disclosed there was some pressure on him to play, even though not physically sound." It came from Coach (George) Allen," he said, "but I could understand his situation. He had no one to call signals."
What form did the pressure take? He was asked.
"Well, it was something like, 'We don't think your knee is as bad as you're being told.' But I knew if I couldn't run, I couldn't play. I don't fault anybody. I don't blame George. I knew what the situation was. But only the player himself knows when he's able to play. And I couldn't play.
"I had a lot of respect for George Allen. I don't think you have to like somebody in coaching, but you do have to respect him. George operated under the principle that, "They may not like what I do, but they'll understand why.' I believe in that myself.
"The only thing I did not like about Coach Allen's program was the length of it. I never felt we had to be on the field as long as we were. But again, you can always be critical of somebody else's system. This was how George became successful, so why should he change?"
"With Jack (Pardee), it's basically the same system we've had here since 1971. One thing the players all appreciate is that we've been able to retain the majority of our defensive calls and defenses rather than having to familiarize ourselves with a whole new set of audibles signals.
"Jack varies it a little bit, tough. Every day isn't always the same. We may do something a little different, and it keeps your interest.
Hanburger said he still enjoys playing the game, but admitted he considers it "as a business. I don't look at it as a sport. I love it, and I wouldn't do it if I didn't.
"But it's also a cruel business. You're dealing with bodies. Young players don't always understand that, but they'll learn to understand it."
Hanburger knows that better than most. No man on the team's current roster has been a Redskin as long as Hanburger (14 years), a status he achieved when his friend and longtime roommate, Len Hauss, was cut from the squad four weeks ago.
"Sure that bothers you," he said. "That's what makes it cruel. It can happen any time to anybody. I can accept whatever happens. If I decided to come back next year (he says he has not made a decision one way or the other) and the told me 'bring your play book,' sure it would be tough.The pride is there. I wouldn't try if I didn't think I still couldn't play. But again, I'll accept it."
And he will thrive when the end finally does come because Hanburger, pragmatist that he is, realized a long time ago that professional football "was just a means to an end.
"I never really thought about playing a real long time when I first started. Back then, nobody really played a long time. But I did look at the game as being able to get you something you might not ordinarily have a chance to get."
So, in 1968, Hanburger began working for Koons Ford in the offseason, going through a management training program that eventually led to his current position. He is listed as a vice president of Chris Hanburger Ford because the dealership is part of the Koons Ford conglomerate.
Industry sources say Hanburger's operation is going well and that eventually, if he chooses, he probably will become the sole owner of the business.
"No matter what Chris does, he's pretty well set," a competitor said the other day. "A lot of us thought he might have some problems there that he'd have a big turnover in personnel just because of the way he is, he's just not a people person. But we hear the exact opposite. His people are very loyal to him. They love him.
"And he's good with the customers, too."
During the season, Hanburger shows up at the car agency several times a week and he is constantly on the phone with his staff. In the offseason, one salesman said. "He's here every day from the minute we open to the minute we close. He works."
Hanburger's cool relations with the local reportorial set are "just the way I like it," he said with just the hint of a smile breaking out. "I feel I've achieved a goal the last few years because very few media people will talk to me anymore. I don't know why they avoid me, but it's worked out well."
Pressed on the subject, he said he had some "bad experiences early in my career. When I say something I like for it to be put down the way I said it and not construed any other way. That doesn't happen. But I don't mind giving interviews. I just like what I say to be put down correctly."
As a hobby, Hanburger flies a six-passenger Cessna he jointly owns with Redskin team dentist George Totten.
"It's a great escape because you can't concentrate on anything else but flying. At least you'd better not," he said.
He also hunts occasionally with a group of friends who know better then to talk football. But mostly, he spends his spare time in the privacy of his Upper Marlboro home.
He lives an hour away from Redskin Park, one of the reasons he says he rarely socializes with teammates.
"I don't know Chris very well," said center Bob Kuziel. "I don't think very many guys do. He's not aloof or anything like that. When you talk to him one on one, he's a terrific guy. There's no question he's very businesslike. He knows what his job is and he goes out and does it."
"A lot of it is my personality." Hanburger allowed. "I'm not an outgoing person. I'm not a partyer; I don't run with the crowd. I just want to be myself."
And how would he like to be remembered?
"I don't really care what people think of me," he said. "I'm just going to be myself. It really makes no difference how I'm remembered. I would hope it's favorable, because my approach to football is like anything else.
"I'll try to do it to the best of my ability all the time. I always have and I hope I always will. But the public is entitled to their opinion and so are my teammates. Let them decide."