Miami safety Lyle Blackwood staggered back to the huddle with his face smeared with blood, his nose smashed and splintered after colliding with Buffalo's Roosevelt Leaks.
"Rub the blood out of my eyes," Blackwood remembers telling a teammate, and he continued to play. Later, on the sidelines, a doctor set Blackwood's nose and the 31-year-old safety helped lead the Dolphins to a 9-7 victory, their second win this season.
"To play professional football, you have to withstand some pain," Blackwood said today.
A broken nose has been the least of Blackwood's pain. These days Lyle and his 25-year-old brother Glenn are the starting safeties for a Super Bowl team and the league's newest nicknamed defense, the Killer Bees. A rosy, familial picture.
But before Lyle came to the Dolphins this year after being cut by the Giants, his vision was perpetually blurred, his life a wreck.
Lyle Blackwood was a heavy drinker, an outrageous bar-hopper who amazed his teammates and opponents with his ability to stand, much less play football, after drinking until dawn. Blackwood began drinking occasionally in high school and heavily at Texas Christian University.
"Back then I didn't think I had a problem," he said. "In college, you'd go down and have a few beers with the guys. Then maybe later have a screwdriver. Then when you were really tanked up you'd go and have some tequila to show you're a real man.
"I never went to get help from anybody. I never really thought of myself as physically addicted, but I was psychologically addicted. It was something I needed to be a regular guy, an extrovert."
In 1973, the Denver Broncos drafted Blackwood in the ninth round, but waived him before the start of the regular season. The Cincinati Bengals signed him and used him on special teams.
While Blackwood was exacting little attention in the NFL record books, he may well have led the league in late, drunken nights.
"I was outrageous and I thought that was what an NFL player was supposed to be like," said Blackwood. "You see all the beer commercials on television. You look at a movie like 'North Dallas Forty.' You see that image. And when you go to practice, afterwards people will say, 'Let's go to the bar.' Two or three drinks and you're lit. You see guys going over the wall in training camp. It's the first thing you see."
The Seahawks acquired Blackwood in the 1976 expansion draft, and after a year in Seattle, he was traded to the Colts. In his first season with Baltimore, Blackwood had a remarkable year, leading the league with 10 interceptions. In one game against the Jets, he intercepted three passes.
Yet Blackwood's problems persisted: "I was making two or three times what my father made. I led the league in interceptions for Baltimore. Everything that the world says makes you happy, I had. But I wasn't happy. I was miserable."
Blackwood' marriage was troubled and his drinking continued, even while he played well. He finally decided to quit drinking and live up to an altered image of the pro football player.
"For years I had been going with the image, going with the grain," he said. "I finally decided to go against the grain."
Blackwood steadily cut down on his drinking. His marriage improved while his reputation as a carouser waned.
After the 1980 season, Blackwood was dealt another joker: The Colts traded him to the Giants.
Blackwood balked. He has a Texan's distaste for New York and in training camp, he gave a noncommittal performance. The Giants cut him. Blackwood, his wife Suzanne and two daughters returned to Texas. In Austin, he worked in Rooster Andrews' sporting goods store--the same store in which Blackwood's father had worked. His pro football career seemed at an end.
Glenn, a more straightlaced person, was beginning his third season with the Dolphins. The Blackwoods had played against each other two years earlier and the confrontation nearly ended Glenn's career. On a punt return, Glenn avoided Lyle's block but in doing so, he tore the ligaments in his left knee.
Glenn returned the favor by recommending his brother to the Miami coaches after cornerback Don McNeal tore a hamstring early in the 1981 season. Three weeks after arriving, Lyle replaced Don Bessillieu at free safety and for the rest of 1981 and all of 1982 the Brothers Blackwood have been part of the league's top-rated defense.
"We work well together, but there's no telepathy or whatever that junk is," said Glenn.
"We just love to hit people," said Lyle.
On the plane to Los Angeles Monday, Lyle and Glenn--who often wear jeans and sports shirts--dressed in baggy black suits, fedoras and shades. The "Bruise Brothers" upstaged the in-flight movie.
Lyle Blackwood is convinced he will not go back to another "Saturday Night Live" act that he once played to excessive, frightening degrees. It was an act that almost ruined his life.
"I was the 'wild and crazy guy,' " he said. "But I was more than crazy."