Phil Simms, for five NFL seasons the personification of incredibly bad luck, rammed his right knee, the one that hasn't been injured, into a table leg late this afternoon.
"I hope this is my injury this year," he said, smiling. The knee turned red, either from the little collision or the way he was rubbing it, but he walked off with no limp and no damage done.
What a strange situation for Simms, the 28-year-old New York Giants quarterback who has never played a complete NFL season. Before this season, when you talked about his statistics, it was more important to mention the two shoulder separations, one knee injury and one compound fracture-dislocation of a thumb than the 50.8 career completion percentage, 39 touchdown passes and 43 interceptions.
Now, though, he is halfway through the 1984 season and, with the Redskins coming to town Sunday, well on his way to his finest year -- and, possibly, a complete one, too.
The Giants are 4-4 after a 2-0 start. A .500 record doesn't often breed heroes, but this situation certainly does. And Simms is the new star.
Playing behind a restructured and inexperienced line, and with young, untested receivers and a running game that averages only 83 yards per game, he has thrown for 2,188 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 54.7 percent of his passes.
"I don't expect to be great every week, because sometimes the opportunities aren't there," he said after practice.
"A running game would help me, no question. It would take a lot of pressure off a lot of people. I don't think teams are respecting our run . . . they have no reason to respect it, so, of course they're not going to. I think at the beginning of year, teams thought, 'Stop the run first,' against us and the passing is secondary, and it's turned around the opposite."
The running game has been weakest in Giants' losses. The numbers in those games: 47 yards, eight yards, 113 yards, 59 yards. "I won't know how it's hurt me until we have a pretty good week running the ball," Simms said.
The running attack, if you will, is hampered even further this week by the questionable game status of Butch Woolfolk, who has a bruised shoulder and hand and didn't practice today.
But there is no question Simms will throw Sunday at Giants Stadium. That's the way to attack a defense that gives up 84 yards against the run.
"You either live or die if you want to throw the ball against them," Simms said. "They are so big, it makes it difficult, but that's what we'll try to do."
Last month, at RFK Stadium, the Redskins intercepted Simms three times in a 30-14 victory. Even so, at the time, Coach Bill Parcells said Simms was the highlight of the Giants' quick start.
"Basically, if I had to put it on one thing, the play of the quarterback has been far superior," Parcells said.
Simms, the son of a tobacco factory worker from Louisville, went to little Morehead State in Kentucky, but played well enough to become the Giants' first-round draft choice in 1979.
Observers saw his looks and his size (6 feet 3, 215 pounds) and pictured another Terry Bradshaw. Perhaps they forgot this was the Giants, and that meant one thing -- instability at quarterback.
In the 20 years since Y.A. Tittle played for the Giants, there have been the Gary Woods and Bob Timberlakes and Jerry Golsteyns and Randy Deans, mixed in with the big names: Earl Morrall, Fran Tarkenton, Craig Morton.
After Joe Pisarcik took a beating for six games of the '79 season, Coach Ray Perkins turned to Simms, who threw for 1,743 yards and was runner-up to Ottis Anderson for NFC rookie of the year honors.
A good start, Simms figured. But in 1980, he separated his right shoulder and missed the last three games, and in 1981, he did the same thing, missing the last six games in a 9-7 playoff season. Forget 1982. He missed the whole thing when he tore ligaments in his left knee in preseason.
And in 1983, in the game in which he replaced Scott Brunner, he got his thumb caught in the loose tape dangling from a lineman's arm and broke it.
Every time he returned from an injury, he said he "pressed so hard." But, this season, he noticed a difference. It was his sixth season and, when he entered the league, he figured he would be lucky if he got five.
"I was relaxed. I had nothing to lose anymore."
After two exhibition games, Parcells announced Simms would be his starter.
It has been a popular move. "He's patting the players on the back and he's scolding them when they do something wrong," the team's president, Wellington Mara, said recently. "It's starting to look like he's their leader now. They're looking for him, looking to him."
Simms, who was clamoring for a trade when the trading deadline passed last season, is playing out his option this season. He picked a good year for it.
"I've played very consistent and haven't made a whole lot of mistakes," he said. "You usually figure you have a down game or two -- you expect to play two bad ones per season. So far, the coaches seem to be happy with me.
"You can tell it in their voices, the way they say, 'That's good.' "