Danny White said it was serious enough to divert some of his attention as the Dallas Cowboys prepared to meet the New York Giants in their important NFC East matchup. Tony Hill called it "a bunch of bull." Tony Dorsett, who has already had his share of personal problems for the year, said it was so ridiculous all he could do was laugh.
Just when the Cowboys appeared on the brink of becoming anew the mighty unit that made them known as "America's Team" for almost a decade, they were struck last week with allegations that their quarterback, star running back and top receiver, along with two former teammates, shaved points in games in the early 1980s in return for cocaine.
Sunday night in the Meadowlands, underdogs by a point or two, the Cowboys responded by defeating the Giants, 30-29. Each of those three current Cowboys had outstanding nights, although the margin proved to be a third-quarter extra point try by the Giants' Jess Atkinson, former University of Maryland and Crossland High School kicker, that bounced off the right upright.
"Nobody was on edge during the game and nobody is worried," said Dorsett, who ran for 86 yards, leaving him 31 yards short of becoming the sixth NFL player to rush for 10,000 yards. "It is just something to laugh about. If it was something that hit home, then it would be something to worry about."
The allegations surfaced last week in legal documents prepared for a trial in Pittsburgh in which former FBI undercover agent Anthony Mitrione Jr. is a witness. Among his reports under scrutiny was one from 1982 indicating Mitrione was told by cocaine dealers that five unnamed Dallas players rigged winning margins.
A story in the Dallas Times Herald last week named White, Dorsett, Hill and then-Cowboys Butch Johnson and Ron Springs. All five have denied the allegations.
In March, Mitrione himself pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
"It is just a bogus story," said Dorsett, who jousted with the Internal Revenue Service over his personal finances over the summer. "From what I heard, it supposedly happened in the preseason and we (the stars named) don't even play much in the preseason."
White entered the game against the Giants having completed an unexceptional 54 percent of his passes, but he completed his first six and 15 of his first 17. He finished 31 of 46 for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
"There was absolutely no basis to the story," said White. "It was not really something that concerned me, but it was important enough that I took the time to let it distract me somewhat. I felt I had to put in the time to take care of it."
Hill, who caught eight passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, said, "When you are innocent, it doesn't really matter and I don't think it affected the team. Our teammates knew us and the system too well to know something like that could have happened."
Atkinson, in his third game replacing injured Ali Haji-Sheikh, kicked first-half field goals of 23 and 37 yards, and with 10:03 remaining, made a 47-yarder that gave the Giants a 29-27 lead.
Phil Simms, who threw for a career-best 432 yards, fumbled for the second time in the final quarter, setting up a 31-yard Dallas field goal by Rafael Septien that countered Atkinson's last field goal.
Atkinson is six for nine on field goals. Haji-Sheikh may be over his hamstring pull in a couple of weeks.