CAPTION: Picture, Mike Thomas, here watching his Redskin teammates in losing effort, is center of swirling controversy because he has remained on sidelines with foot injury. His lawyer has said other teams want Thomas., [LINE ILLEGIBLE]
Bill Brundige is angry with Mike Thomas. In Saturday's column here, Thomas was praised for refusing a pain-killer injection of the type Brundige took to play on a bad foot last season. Brundige didn't like the column and yesterday he said why.
According to Brundige, Thomas did not refuse a pain-killing shot. Brundige says Thomas simply refused to talk to the team doctor about a cortisone shot, which, in pro football, is the next thing to taking aspirin. Cortisone relieves pain, but does not hid it.
"The deal abut Mike Thomas really made me mad," said Brundige, a defensive tackle who is sitting out this season after summer surgery on his foot. "Mike was approached on Thursday and Saturday (of two weeks ago) to see if he'd talk to the doctor about a shot of cortisone. And Mike said, "I don't need no goddamned shot."
Thomas could not be reached for comment last night. His lawyer earlier in the day felt compelled by recent news stories to say the running back "is not a malingerer." While Brundige stopped short of such a judgment, he obviously believes Thomas ought to be playing.
Thomas, just as clearly, believes he knows best the extent of his pain and his ability to handle it. What might be nice for the moment may be destructive of the future. And for every player willing to take a needle there are more and more who want nothing to do with it. Horror stories of drug abuse have found their way to the ears of civilians, and it would be reassuring, every now and then, if a Mike Thomas says no to the pain-killers.
Brundige won't argue that. But cortisone? He doesn't understand how an NFL running back can refuse a shot of cortisone. Not after what he has seen in eight years as a professional. Not after his own experience of last season, when he tore up his foot and played anyway, thanks to the pain-killing drug Xylocaine.
Five minutes before kickoff in St. Louis last December - five minutes before a game the Redskins had to win if they hoped to reach the playoffs - Brundige could not walk. He had torn up ligaments and ripped apart a joint in his foot. In order to play, he asked the team doctor - "You've got to beg him," Brundige said - for a shot to kill the pain.
Then, with the foot taped so tightly that blood circulationwas cut off drastically, Brundige played that day in near-zero temperatures on a frozen artificial turf field. He suffered frostbite. "I almost lost my toes," he said. "Four toes were completely black."
Brundige doesn't expect a civilian to understand why a man would torture himself that way.
"This sport is not logical," he said. "You have a bunch of grown men, age 22 to 39, playing a very silly game. What is the world significance of football? It's not very rational. But with men like Ron McDole, Diron Talbert, Chris Hanburger, Ken Houston - to
Is that good?
"It's expected," Brundige said, "but fewer and fewer players do it. For me, personally, football is epitomized by Billy Kilmer and Lenny Hauss, those kind of guys. Hauss had plebitis and almost died. The doctor would say, 'Lenny, stay off the field.' Well, he had so much pride you couldn't make him stay off the field.
"He was going in once to get a drink and Roy jefferson, standing there, said, 'See you later, Lenny,' and Lenny wouldn't go on in. He stayed out there. There just are some guys you can't keep off the field with a stick - and others you can't get on the field with a stick."
Brundige says he will remember forever the exhilaration that accompanied his first play in that St. Louis game. He sacked the quarterback, Jim Hart.
"Billy Kilmer said later it was one of the team's great uplifts that day, to see me do that," Brundige said.
Playing on the injured foot did not make surgery necessary, Brundige said. It was simply his choice to relieve the pain of a separated joint. And he said George Allen, then the coach, was "scrupulously fair."
"George would come to me, call me at home, saying, 'God, Bill, we need you, can you play?'" Brundige said. "But then he came by me in the training room and saw the foot. It looked like hamburger meat, all blue and purple. He looked away and said, 'We'll win with Wil Wynn.'"
The Redskins had signed free agent Wynn as insurance against the possibility Brundige couldn't play. For eight years, Brundige had played in pain, taking shots in the thumbs, fingers and, for six games in 1975, asking for three shots a game in a separated shoulder.
After this summer's surgery, Brundige put aside his crutches only two weeks ago and still is limping perceptibly. The surgery, fusing that joint into a piece, may have cost him mobility and he doesn't know if he'll ever play again.
He does know this: He would play on that bad foot again. He would do it every time, he said. "I was convinced the risk was not any greater than the risk you take every time of getting your neck broken," he said.
"The pressure to play is not in the form of 'Bill, go get a shot.' It is 'Bill, do you think you can play?' Ron McDole and Diron Talbert, you know they wouldn't be happy with someone else playing in my play. And yet it is understood that if the doctor says so, that's it. You can't screw yourself up for the rest of your life."
"Yes, if I heal, I'd do it again. Everybody would."
Brundige corrected himself.
"Not everybody. Obviously, Mike Thomas wouldn't."