CHICAGO — Two weeks ago in San Francisco, when Chicago defensive tackle William Perry carried the ball twice at the end of the game, most everyone assumed it was a way of tweaking Coach Bill Walsh's nose for using offensive guard Guy McIntyre as a blocking back against the Bears in the 1984 NFC title game.
But last Monday night "The Refrigerator," who weighs anywhere from 308 to 350 pounds, depending on whom you believe, nearly terminated one poor Green Bay Packer linebacker while blocking for two touchdowns and ran like a woolly mammoth through a pile for another.
Now it is quite obvious Coach Mike Ditka and the Bears are serious about this.
Perry was clearly the highlight of an otherwise forgettable 23-7 Monday night victory for the undefeated Bears, now 7-0.
Buddy Ryan, the Bears' defensive coordinator, who said in training camp the team had "wasted" a No. 1 draft choice on Perry, then 350 pounds, even had grudging praise for his team's new blocking back.
"He's much more spectacular as a fullback than he is a defensive tackle," Ryan said today. "He's still got a long way to go on defense. How much does he weigh? He told me last week he was 312. . . . I know he's still too fat."
But there were no complaints from Walter Payton, who scored those two short touchdowns by hiding behind Perry.
"Believe me, this guy is unbelievable," said Payton, the NFL's all-time leading rusher. "I hope they don't keep bringing defensive linemen in there; they'll move out all the running backs. . . . He's like a big waterbed that moves around."
Asked if coaches plan for Perry to catch passes or take pitchouts in goal-line situations, Payton said with some degree of seriousness, "They better not."
Perry is believed to be the biggest pro football player ever. Unless Pete Johnson was lying about the amount of his girth a few years ago, Perry, who eats his Fruit Loops from a mixing bowl, certainly is the biggest man to carry a football in the NFL.
Ryan, the defensive coordinator, is still not convinced Perry can play defense, however.
"I'd say the jury is still out on how good the draft pick was," he said. "You'll tell that in a couple of years. Right now on defense we use him on short yardage and at the goal-line. He's got no stamina. He's not in shape. He doesn't have any endurance. He has to play one, then rest two or three. He just has to get his weight down.
"If he got down another 40 pounds, he'd probably be a great defensive player. . . . His condition is like an alcoholic. . . . He's got to change his life style and stop eating."
But Perry, on offense, apparently is no freak show. Asked after the game whether Perry will continue to play in goal-line situations, Ditka said, "There's a good possibility, until we see somebody bigger than him in there to fill the hole."
So there is a good chance that Perry, already dubbed here as "The Big Back Attack," will continue to do what he did Monday.
On the second play of the second quarter, Perry came in for fullback Matt Suhey, a sixth-year veteran who usually blocks for Payton. But Suhey has never thrown a block like Perry's first. Perry was assigned to block Green Bay's right inside linebacker, the unfortunate George Cumby.
Perry didn't just block Cumby. He knocked the 224-pound linebacker at least two yards deep into the end zone, drawing shrieks from more than 65,000. Cumby seemed to get lost somewhere between Perry's belly button and waistline, such as there is.
"I tried to hit him at an angle," Cumby explained. "I figured I'd take a side, but it didn't matter, because one is as big as another."
Payton had little trouble following the block for the touchdown that tied the game, 7-7.
Perry described his execution this way: "I had one obligation, to bump the linebacker, (and) whoever else got in my way, take them out, too."
Perry was asked if there was a name for the play. "It's 34-something, 34-lead draw or something. I don't know. I'm just out there. The only thing I know is the snap is on one or two. That's it."
The Bears don't work on the play in practice, because their linebackers won't stand for it.
Cumby knows why. About four minutes later, after Payton's 10-yard run left the Bears at the 1, the fans stood and chanted for Perry, not Payton. This time Perry took the handoff himself and just bashed into the end zone.
"It's just having fun," said Perry. "I always said I'd do whatever they wanted me to."
The final wrecking act came with a minute left before halftime. The Fridge was again assigned to block Cumby. He did that with little problem, and when the carnage was cleared, two other Packers had been bowled over into the end zone.
Cumby explained again: "I tried to hit him flush, but I guess he weighs a little more than I do."
Payton carried the 1 yard, through the left side, without being touched, which is virtually unheard of in a short-yardage situation.