Roger Staubach had just finished his first practive session since the one-shot knockout that deactivated him for the second half of the Dallas Cowboys' opening-round playoff victory over the Falcons Saturday.
In the next stall in the Dallas Cowboy locker room, Danny White, the man who replaced Staubach and kept the Cowboys from fading into the sun set, couldn't resist teasing the man who keeps him riding the bench.
"Feeling all right, Roger? No dizzy spells, you sure?" White asked in mock solemnity. "Any chance of a recurrence? Geez, Rog, you don't look so good."
Staubach, who, despite common belief, has an impish sense of humor himself, smiled quickly and said, "No, Danny, I'm fine. Yah, I think I'm gonna play, don't you?"
"Yeah, Org, I know," White said, a large grin on his face, too. "But it never hurts to ask."
Everyone in the Cowboy organization knows that if Roger Staubach can stand, he can also play Sunday when Dallas takes on the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.
"You couldn't keep Roger out of the game if you tried," said Tex Schramm, Cowboy vice president and general manager. "It's very rare you'll see a guy as totally dedicated to his job, with such a competitive spirit, and the physical ability to go with it.
"You'll find two out of three with most guys but never will you find a guy so singlemindedly dedicated as he is. He competes at Everything -- table tennis, basketball, tiddlywinks. The guy wants to win in everything he does. He's a champion, there's no question about it. And even more important, he's a wonderful human being, too."
Staubach was apprised about Schramm's comments a few hours later, and he seemed to blush slightly over such fawning praise.
The 36-year-old leader of the NFL's most successful team has read for years about the so-called "Goody Two-shoes" in cleats, the loving father, devoted family man, devout Christian.
He is acutely sensitive as to how others perceive him.
"This image I'm supposed to have; there are times then I've had to clarify it and it's worked against me," Staubach said. "I am no different now than I was in high school or college, exeept for the growth in my life. I'm married and I have children. But I still velieve basically in the same things I always believed in.
"But I am not a staid, no-sense-of-humor computerized guy waving a flag with a Bible in one hand and my arms wrapped around my family. I believe I have some depth as a person. That other stuff can really be overdone.
"My religion is an important part of my life, but I do not go around trying to assert my beliefs on other people. I have five kids. I love my wife. We have fun and we enjoy life. And when people ask me about it, I tell them about it.
"And yet, even when I say things like that, I know what it sounds like, and I'm sure there are people who will say, "There he goes again, good ole Roger.' I can't help that. I am what I am and I'm comfortable the way I am."
He says all of this in a soft gentle voice that seems so out of place coming from a body that has been bounded for so many years in the most violent of games.
But it is also a body that shows very little sign of wear and tear, even after 11 years of pad-popping pounding and head-hunting hits.
"Roger Staubach can play until he's 40 because he doesn't know what a hangover feels like," former Redskin quarterback Sonny Jurgensen once said of Staubach.
Added Schramm, "He has the body of a person five or six years younger. Maybe the fact that he missed the first five years because he was in the Navy helped him. He's not a 36-year-old man who's played 16 or 17 years.
"But the main thing is Roger is always in great physical shape. I don't like to use the word fanatic, but he works out all the time, and he'll always be like that. It's like his religion. He believes in it."
Still, the flecks of gray hair keep spreading, and Staubach knows the end is not far away.
Allthough he signed a five-year contract before the start of the 1978 season, he told Schramm he thought he could play three more years as a starter, and then would reassess the situation.
"I couldn't see myself as a backup," Staubach said today. "Unless it happened during a season when I got hurt and the coach felt he needed to make a change to help the team. But I don't want to just hang on. I enjoy playing on the field. That's why I'm in it.
"I really do take it year to year. Right now, I'm in excellent shape. We have a young quarterback who's doing an excellent job and I know he's chomping at the bit. I can hardly blame him. But I also feel I'm at my physical peak right now and I still feel I can improve."
It is hard to imagine Staubach playing much better. This past regular season, he completed 55 percent of his throws. He needs only four completions against the Rams Sunday to become the leading passer in NEL playoff history, and his next touchdown toss also will be a carrer playoff record.
Still, Staubach says, "Age is not in my favor and I do have to prepare not to play anymore." He also insists he will be able to handle it. "I have my family," he said. "I have a business (real estate) and one of the nice things is I'll be able to be morle anonymous.
"Athletics have been an important part of my life, but after I left the Naval Academy for my active duty I had prepared myself for the very good possibility that I might not ever play professional football. I was able to accept it then although I got lucky and got a chance to play."
He has no desire to become a coach, nor does he have any political ambitions, even though he has been approached on several occasions to run for public office.
"The thing I've tried to stay away from as an athlete is getting into things I don't really know about," he said. "I don't take public stands because I'm not a specialist in those areas. I have opinions, but they are my opinions. There are a lot of things people don't know about me and I think that's how it should be.
"How would I categorize myself politically? Well, Il'm a conservative in as far as I believe in a noncentralized government, the way they intended to set it up in the 1700s. I'm against the big brother trying to get into too many things and I beleve the free enterprise is basic to our country."
He also believes in good-faith negotiations, as Schramm will fully attest.
"He's never made a contract demand snce he's been here," Schramm said. "When the WFL was signing everybody to all those big dfontracts, I told Roger I wanted to sign him to a new agreement.
"So he went out and he talked to Tarkenton and some other quarterbacks, and when he came back, he said, 'This is what I want.' And what he wanted then and what he has always wanted is always under what the people he talks to tell him. He told me once the best quarterback in the league isn't determined by the amount of his contract. Roger is motivated by other things.
"He only takes a fraction of the commercial stuff he could do. He will not let personal appearance interfere with anything he does during the season.He's a guy who knows his goals and he goes to them."
Now, of course, there is the goal of the third Super Bowl championship. But Staubach, the so-called great competitor, will also tell you quite candidly, "Sure I want to win it, but if we lose its not going to mean the end of my life.
"Pat Toomay once wrote an article about how competitive I am, that I was playing Ping-Pong once and lost and I threw the paddle against the wall. Well I did, but I was kidding around and everybody knew it.
"I like to win. We are paid to win. But if I lose, I can adjust. "It's part of my philosophy of life, to keep things in perspective at all times.
"Twenty years from now, maybe I'll be remembered as a pretty good athlete but I hope I'm remembered for more than that, as a person who cared about people and had them care about him."
Teammate Harvey Martin will remember.
"Whatever else I get out of pro foot-ball," he once said, "at least I'll be able to say I had the pleasure of knowing Roger Staubach."
He is not alone.