His season has been a spinning in a whirlwind of gossip and now, as his interception total rises, quarterback Joe Theismann of the Washington Redskins admits, "I think I'm pressing a little."
The pressures, Theismann insisted, don't stem from his pending divorce or from his relationship with actress Cathy Lee Crosby. The pressures, he said, come from the game and from matching his past performances. In other words, they come from the competitive self.
"You go to the Super Bowl and have great success as a team and as an individual. Then, all of a sudden, the standard is way up there," Theismann said. "Instead of relaxing and taking each game as it comes, you start to say, 'I've got to try to do this. I've got to try to do that.' "
And what, if any, effect has Theismann's personal life had on his performances on the field? "To say it doesn't affect you is wrong," Theismann said. "But to say it affects you a lot is wrong, too."
Before yesterday's interview, Theismann had talked to the press this season only after games and about games. Previously, he had been the most accessible player on the team to the media, but after last January's Super Bowl said that he wanted to devote more time to himself and to his game.
Theismann did not give any reason for granting this interview. Asked if this means he will again "talk with the media," Theismann said, "No, it means I'm answering questions today."
Coach Joe Gibbs has called Theismann "the rock, with so many things moving around him this season." Gibbs is alluding to the injuries that have stolen from Theismann some of the team's best pass catchers, such as all-pro wide receiver Charlie Brown and running back Joe Washington.
Last season, Theismann was Gibraltar, throwing 29 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions, leading the Redskins to their second straight Super Bowl and being named the NFL's most valuable player.
This season, however, both Theismann and the Redskins (7-5) have tiptoed out of football Shangri-La and into inconsistent times. Certainly, the injuries haven't helped.
So far this season, Theismann has thrown 17 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. "It's not that drastic a situation. If it was reversed (17 interceptions, 11 touchdown passes), then I would say that there is something wrong," Theismann said, adding that he is not displeased with his efforts this season.
Theismann threw three interceptions in last Sunday's 16-10 loss at Philadelphia. He threw into crowds on several occasions.
After reviewing game films, though, Theismann said, "I would (say) that I don't feel I played like I want to play. But as far as the films, I think I made good decisions overall."
He has thrown for more than 300 yards in just one game this season and less than 150 yards in four games. Last season, he threw for more than 300 yards four times, with a high of 417. Furthermore, the Redskins are averaging 179 passing yards per game this season, 50 yards less than last year.
"You can't look back to last year," Theismann said. "This football team is different. There are a lot of little things to work out, like with Cal (receiver Calvin Muhammad, who has played in the absence of Brown).
"Calvin's got great speed and I think maybe I've forced a few deep balls to him, saying, 'Holy mackerel. I've got a guy who's incredibly fast. Now, I'm going to make something happen.'
"Ever since Calvin ran by somebody in the Dallas game (for an 80-yard scoring pass from Theismann), I've made some poor decisions regarding that.
"This is something I have to deal with. It's not an overnight adjustment. It's a situation where we have to go back to basics.
"I really feel like I've run with the ball too much this year. There are instances when I've come out of the pocket too soon where maybe I should have stayed longer," he said.
These things are all correctable, Theismann noted. He is in his 10th season with the Redskins. He just broke Sonny Jurgensen's team record for pass attempts (he has 3,178 now) and should usurp Jurgensen's club records for passing yards and completions in the next two weeks.
"I guarantee you: Ask any of the young guys on this football team and most of them think I'm 28 or 29 years old," Theisman said. "Why? Because of the way I play. I feel like a 28- or 29-year-old, but I have 35 years of experience."
He is six-foot, 198 pounds and is considered one of the finest natural athletes on the Redskins, a player who always keeps his body in prime condition.
He said he has trimmed his speaking engagements and done away with his radio and television shows this year. That decision, he said, has left him more time to live something other than football, football, football.
"That allows me mornings to myself and one or two nights a week to myself," Theismann said.
Indeed, this has been a transition year for the Redskins, what with all the injuries and what with all those defenses trying newfangled twists to stop the offense that scored a league-record 541 points in the regular season last year.
"We're learning every day," Theismann said. "We have to add another dimension to our offense. We've got new players, (defenses) are adjusting to what we've done and we have to adjust to them. I believe in what Coach Gibbs does. I believe in his philosophies.
"It's been a lot more complex than lining up and knocking people down."
He said he wished that the divorce from Shari Theismann, which is due to become final in March, hadn't become so public. "I never wanted it to be. It's one of those things I guess that happened," Theismann said. "I just try to go on with my life and my job."
Theismann said he has avoided reading any accounts of his divorce.
"If somebody were to come up to me and say, 'Have you heard this?' I would say, 'I haven't heard it and I don't want to hear it.' I try to eliminate a lot of suppressive things.
"The reason I can (do that) is that I have a fantastic relationship with a wonderful woman," Theismann said of Crosby. "I have three children (ages 12, 10 and 5) whom I love and whom love me. From those relationships, I draw a tremendous amount of strength. That's off the field. On the field, I'm just doing what I love to do."