Running back Preston Pearson, the Dallas Cowboys' clutch third-down receiver who would be in his fifth Super Bowl, became "questionable" today when he suffered a jammed bone below the ring finger on his left hand 10 minutes before the end of practice.
If there is swelling Friday, the hand will be X-rayed. Pearson stumbled and hit his hand against his leg before he fell. Coach Tom Landry said it would be a problem if Pearson was not available Sunday, "because he's a specialist and extremely valuable."
Before that news, Coach Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers threw out the closest thing to a challenge at the coaching level when he said at a news conference, "We like to think the AFC (American Football Conference) is a better conference."
Tex Schramm, general manager of the Cowboys, had two ready replies for reporters at Dallas hotel headquarters, one implicit and the other explicit.
A striped tent had been raised, with two Lone Star State flags slapping in the breeze. "It's for our victory party," Schramm explained. "It will cost $30,000 before the first drink is spilled or the first note of music is played. We will have two orchestras.
"This time, it's kind of two No. 1s playing (the Cowboys were a wild-card team in the 10th Super Bowl, with 12 rookies, and the Steelers won, 21-17). There will be no excuses when it's over. If we win, they can take Pittsburgh and stick it in their ear (or something like that). We're under a lot of pressure because we feel we represent something else than just the Cowboys.
"It's the most pressure-packed game the Cowboys have played since 1971 (when Baltimore defeated Dallas, 16-13). The reason is there's been a growing feeling that the AFC is the stronger conference. This has been a carry-over thing because they say there is an 'x' number of teams in the AFC better than in the NFC."
Even usually stoic Landry got caught up in the increasingly emotional give and take when he was asked if the Steelers were an "intimidating team." He said, "Intimidation doesn't mean anything to us. We can play as tough and as physical as anyone."
For betting folks, the most unremarked factor is that the odds figure to be against the Steelers in a close game because 10-season placekicker Roy Gerela has not been highly effective. Asked about that, Noll said, evasively, "Well, he's our kicker."
Gerela has made only three of eight field-goal attempts between 30 and 39 yards and three of nine between 40 and 49. He has made 12 of 26 overall.
Baltimore beat Dallas in the fifth Super Bowl on a 32-yard field goal by rookie Jim O'Brien with five seconds remaining.
In the second Super Bowl, Don Chandler helped Green Bay break open the game early, with four field goals, in a 33-14 victory over Oakland.
Dallas running back Tony Dorsett disclosed that he weighed only 188 pounds the other day and made reference to the pressure in pro ball. "I knew pro football wouldn't be as much fun as in college," he said. "There is the pressure of keeping your job."
Dorsett remarked on his college days: "I was recruited for defense and offense. That was one of the things that turned me away from Penn State. (Coach) Joe Paterno told me I wouldn't be a running back my first year because of John Cappelletti having the job. I would have had to play defense that year."
An interviewer threw a curve at Dorsett: What did he like about Tom Landry?
"His approach to football. He's a humanitarian. He's the most brilliant man in football. He's so relaxed out there that it's unreal. Sometimes I wonder why he doesn't raise his voice and get tough."
What did he think of Landry as a disciplinarian?
"He's good at that, too," Dorsett said coyly at the reference to his alleged oversleeping and missing a Saturday practice during the season, "but he's fair. He talks to you man to man and bears no grudge. It probably will never happen again in my career. I was never penalized in college, but I never overslept, either. I thought I would get a stiff fine, not benched."
Was Landry's benching of him more effective?
"He did both."
Dorsett said of weighing only 188: "I'm healthy. I try not to get hit headon. I don't give 'em a leg or an arm to hit, either. I don't look for contact. My game is finesse."