Coy Bacon isn't the least bit coy about his reasons for trying to win a spot with the Washington Federals. He's still upset because Joe Gibbs cut him from the Redskins last year.
"Playing first string isn't one of my goals," said the 39-year-old defensive end. "My goals are making money and cleaning up my reputation."
Playing for the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals and Redskins for a total of 14 years in the NFL, Bacon had more than 100 quarterback sacks and was voted to the Pro Bowl three times. But his reputation was tainted.
Gibbs said he had to cut Bacon because he was violating too many team rules. Bacon calls it "bad vibes."
"I know my reputation," said Bacon. "They thought I was out drinking more than anyone else. And they thought I was late for too many things. They said it was a bad influence on the younger players. Well, that's over."
The fringe violence of a tornado blew through Jacksonville early this morning, shaking a few windows and rattling a few walls. The storm also soaked the Sam W. Wolfson Baseball Park, making the footing treacherous for the Federals' first day in pads.
After practice, Bacon lay on his bed with a heating pad under his back and a wet towel over his left knee. He is an outgoing man, the hit of the cafeteria, the guy who cracks the jokes in the huddle. Stretched out on the bed wearing just a pair of cotton shorts, he looked like a satiated grizzly.
Bacon patted his ample middle.
"I'm around 275 now. I should get to 265, my playing weight," said Bacon. "My whole body's sore. We did six 350s and that was all right. I've been working out this year but I have to get used to the hitting again."
According to owner Berl Bernhard and General Manager Dick Myers, the Federals are hoping that Bacon will be able to provide them with a gate attraction as well as a pass rush.
Bacon doesn't mind if the Federals use him as a draw: "Everybody uses each other. If it puts money in my pocket, I don't mind." According to sources, Bacon has had problems in the past with the Internal Revenue Service. His divorce last year provided further financial burdens.
"Don't get it wrong," said Bacon. "I like to play as much as the next. But you don't see anyone here doing it for free, do you?"
After the Redskins cut him, Bacon returned home to Ironton, Ohio. "I didn't do much of anything for a while," Bacon said.
Finally he decided to try a career in professional wrestling under the name "Boom Boom" Bacon. He made $200 a bout and had the honor of joining Bobo Brazil in a tag team match.
"I had a great move called 'The Sack,' " said Bacon. "I'd throw the guy against the ropes, flip him and land on top of him. It was a real good show. The flips and the falls are real. You have to learn that.
"It was 60 percent show, 40 percent real. You work it all out with the other guy before you wrestle. But I don't want to talk about that much. It's a wrestler's secret code."
After graduating from Jackson State, Bacon began his professional career with the Charleston Rockets of the Continental Football League. In 1967, he moved on to the Oklahoma City Plainsmen of the Professional Football League.
"This league is a class act compared to those places," said Bacon. "Those were way down."
After a stint on the Dallas Cowboys taxi squad, Bacon was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for a fifth-round draft choice in 1968.
Five years with the Rams was followed by three with the Chargers, two years with the Bengals and three in Washington. Bacon had the dubious distinction of being one of the league's most accomplished journeymen.
While waiting for camp to begin, Bacon watched the Redskins' Super Bowl victory over the Miami Dolphins.
"I saw that game and I was glad for those guys, but I realized I had missed out," said Bacon. "With the Rams, the Chargers, the Bengals, the 'Skins, they all went on to play in the championship games right after I left.
"I can't do anything about that now. I just want to make this team, play for two or three years and get out with a decent rep."
"The whole thing about Coy's reputation is overblown," said Mike Faulkiner, the Federals' director of player personnel. "Coy could be one of the best pass rushers in this league. We know he's not as strong on the run as on the pass. We're trying to figure out if we can have the luxury of having a player that specialized."
Bacon pulled up the blanket and shut off the television.
"I want to get some sleep before afternoon practice, but I want to tell you one thing," said Bacon. "I'm not that bad. They think I'm a malcontent, a troublemaker. It's talk, that's all. I just want to make this team. I'm not ready to go back to Ohio yet."
Coach Ray Jauch made his first cut, guard Les Boring from Maryland. Also, East Carolina defensive end Tim Swords, one of two players to gain an invitation to training camp after an open tryout at RFK Stadium this winter, reportedly left camp early today. The team added one player, fifth-round draft pick Mike Hohensee, a quarterback from the University of Minnesota who passed for 30 touchdowns and 2,380 yards for the Gophers.