As far as the outside world knows, no fistfights ever broke out in a National Football League team's headquarters on draft day.

Has anyone checked with the Chicago Bears?

Last spring, their scouting department decided to select defensive tackle William (The Refrigerator) Perry of Clemson in the first round of the NFL draft.

Their coaching staff, particularly defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, was aghast. No one told them Perry was going to be the pick.

This was no oversight. It was by design, by Bears design, which is to say, a football stencil cut out with a meat cleaver.

The Perry decision was the Bears' heavy-handed way of putting one of the finishing touches on their 1985 roster, a list that includes only 15 of the names it did five years ago.

"We don't involve the assistant coaches in our drafts," General Manager Jerry Vainisi said recently. "That's becoming more and more unusual, I know, but it cuts down on the number of people making decisions."

So Ryan called Perry a "wasted draft pick"? So Ryan said: "He's a nice kid, but so's my son, and I wouldn't want him playing for me"? So what, says Vainisi.

"It didn't embarrass us. It aggravated me, but that's Ryan's style. Ryan said he wanted a cornerback. If Ryan doesn't get his way, he complains. He's been wanting a cornerback for seven years or something like that, and when he doesn't get one, he'll knock the draft choice," Vainisi said.

Perhaps the most satisfying thing about the Bears is they built their team the way they play football: recklessly.

With opportune draft picks, a smattering of free agents and a trade here and there, the Bears very quickly molded the team that has become the favorite for Super Bowl XX this week.

Although their biggest star, running back Walter Payton, arrived 11 years ago, the philosophy swept in four years ago today, when Mike Ditka was named head coach.

"I wanted people who wanted to do more than be first in line Tuesday for their paycheck," Ditka said. "I wanted people who would play hard on Sunday. It was simple, really."

The Bears became so uncomplicated. They cut hordes of mediocre players, and replaced them with better ones. Now, although they have played .500 or better only the last three seasons, 24 of their 45 players have not played on a losing Bears team.

"They don't remember the blocked punts by Minnesota or the fumbles against Green Bay," said free safety Gary Fencik, a 10-year veteran who does. "More than half this team has never played for a loser here."

Vainisi, who had been with the Chicago front office for 11 years before becoming general manager in 1983, said many players on the old Bears "had accepted losing."

And Ditka, of all people, wouldn't accept that.

Around draft time, most teams run circles around the "best available athlete" phrase. But, in Ditka's first year, the Bears targeted positions and stuck to them.

"We drafted by positions those first couple years especially," Ditka said. "We were so poor in some areas, we had to do it."

Ditka's first priority was quarterback, which came as no surprise after solemn seasons filled with the misfires of Bobby Douglass, Jack Concannon, Bob Avellini and friends.

Ditka and his scouts did well. With the fifth choice in the 1982 draft, they picked Jim McMahon.

"For the first time since Sid Luckman who played in the '40s , we had a man the players, coaches and management felt was the quarterback of the future," said Vainisi. "So we quickly made sure to sign him, then extended the contract to lock him up through the decade."

McMahon, whose roughhouse style makes the Chicago offense go, earns about $1 million a year.

A half dozen starters came in the draft the next year: tackle Jim Covert and receiver Willie Gault in the first round; cornerback Mike Richardson in the second; strong safety Dave Duerson in the third; and defensive end Richard Dent and guard Mark Bortz in the eighth.

A seventh starter, guard Tom Thayer, was taken in the fourth round that year, but went to the U.S. Football League before returning this season.

Bortz was drafted as a defensive tackle out of Iowa, but Ditka soon moved him to the offensive line.

"That is a hallmark of Ditka," Vainisi said. "Give them time, let them develop and improve. It happened with Bortz, it happened with Richard Dent, it happened with William Perry. It's the idea that if we draft the right kind of kid, it's hard to run them off."

Vainisi considers his best acquisition to be one that arrived in 1984.

"The Wilber Marshall deal a year ago I think said a lot," he said. "It signaled to the players and to the fans who didn't like the size of his contract that we were willing to take a chance."

If anything turned the Chicago dynasty into a doormat, it was the difficulty the late George Halas had putting his hand into his wallet. When Marshall, a first-round selection from Florida, received a contract worth about $500,000 a year, it changed the Bears' stingy image.

"I think we surprised some people that we were willing to spend that kind of money to sign a player," Vainisi said triumphantly.

The Bears obtained two final key players in the 1985 draft -- Perry and kicker Kevin Butler, who probably will be in Chicago for quite a long time.

Neither came with the prerequisite Ditka originally stated for his new players.

"We wanted speed at first," the coach said. "We had the reputation of being a slow team. Now, we're a fast football team."

Gault was a world-class sprinter when he was drafted; swift Dennis McKinnon also came that season as a free agent. They are the Bears' starting wide receivers.

Obviously, Ditka wastes no time in getting what he wants. He now laughs off Ryan's criticisms of Perry. (Who wouldn't?) He says he continues to pinpoint in his mind areas of concern, players he would want for next year, but now realizes he has reached a stage where he, too, can look at the "best available athlete."

Vainisi was speaking the other day of the team he has watched develop in front of his eyes. He was struck by how much it resembles its coach.

"The team's got Mike's personality, it sure does," he said.

It's also got his build, from the ground up.