Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka today assessed the wild week his quarterback, Jim McMahon, has had here before the Super Bowl and surprisingly declared that it has helped, not hurt, the heavily favored Bears.
"I think he's taken the pressure off Walter (Payton, the 11-year veteran running back preparing for his first Super Bowl)," Ditka said. "I think he's taken the pressure off everybody . . .
"When we were 6-0, 7-0, and everyone started talking about us, the (William) Perry thing came along and took the pressure off. I think the McMahon thing has taken the pressure off here."
There has been more than one "McMahon thing" during Super Bowl week. First came the news that he required acupuncture treatments for a bruised rear end. Then, midweek, he dropped his football pants as a helicopter hovered over the Bears' practice field.
Finally, an insulting remark incorrectly attributed to him on a local TV station caused an uproar in this city, including a bomb threat at the Bears' hotel, verbal threats on McMahon's life and a demonstration by 20 women.
"Pressure's not a bad thing if you can handle it, and I think Jim can," Ditka said at the head coaches' final news conference before Sunday's game.
Ditka said the controversy over McMahon's acupuncture treatments was not a "problem," adding that the treatments, which McMahon insisted on and team officials didn't support, are working well.
"He should be 100 percent by Sunday," Ditka said. "Of course, if he were hit directly on that area, it would hurt and might limit his mobility. Part of his effectiveness is his ability to feel pressure in the pocket and move away from it."
Ditka laughed off the helicopter incident. "I doubt if the guys in the helicopter knew what was going on," he said.
As for the alleged remark, calling the women of New Orleans "sluts," Ditka said: "It was blown out of proportion and it wasn't a fact.
"Now, I could understand if he took off Wednesday night and robbed a McDonald's . . . "
The next McMahon controversy is likely to concern the headband he wears for the game. He was fined for wearing an Adidas headband in the playoffs, so he improvised the next week with a "Rozelle" head and in honor of the man who fined him, Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
One of the popular topics of discussion here is what he will wear on it Sunday. "I hope he puts nothing on his headband," Ditka said.
In this, the Year of the Refrigerator, it's fitting that New England Coach Raymond Berry, who has much less controversy in his life, says he has only one concern about the Super Bowl, and Perry is it.
Berry is worried that the 304-pound Perry will fall on one of his players, or on him.
"When Perry comes close to our bench, you better believe I know where I'm headed," Berry said.
Ditka generally eschews predictions, but has one for Berry.
"I guarantee you this: William Perry will fall on somebody," Ditka said. "If that's (Berry's) biggest concern, it'll be a reality."
Perry, a defensive tackle, will be used as a blocker on some goalline situations, Ditka said.
"We're not gonna fool anybody by doing anything differently," Ditka said.
Berry said defensive end Ken Sims, who broke his left leg Dec. 1, is not able to play. Earlier in the week, it was considered a possibility that he might be activated off the injured reserve list.
Wide receiver Irving Fryar, whose right hand was cut apparently in a domestic dispute, is performing well in practice, Berry said. "If you didn't know he had something on his hand, you'd never tell," he said.
Berry said he would consider putting veteran quarterback Steve Grogan, who has said he wants to get into the game, on special teams if he's not needed to replace Tony Eason, who has the flu.
"I wasn't thinking about it," Berry said when asked about it by a reporter, "but maybe I'll do something like that."