There are benefits to playing in the Pro Bowl besides picking up a few grand and a suntan.
Ram guard Kent Hill remembers his first postseason trip to Hawaii after the 1980 season and what a fine fellow Randy White was when they played on the same team.
"I thought, 'He's a real nice guy,' " Hill said. "But (Ram teammate) Dennis Harrah was there, too, and he was showing him a lot of technique--'We jam and we do this'--and I said, 'Don't be showin' him that. I gotta play against him. He doesn't need any edge at all.' "
Hill and White, the Dallas Cowboys' eight-time All-Pro defensive tackle, will be National Conference teammates again in Honolulu later this month, but first they'll have a divisional playoff confrontation at Anaheim Saturday, the eighth time they will have met in the last seven seasons.
"We've missed only one year, the strike year, since I've been in the league," Hill said.
White, who will be 33 in 12 days, has been voted into the Pro Bowl nine times, and Hill, 28, five. They probably know more than they care to about each other.
"He's very quick and strong," Hill said. "It's the combination that makes him so good. Some guys' forte is either strength or quickness. He has both. You can't make any mistakes against him."
Hudson Houck, the Rams' offensive line coach, cited another of White's qualities--determination. "He just keeps coming at you, Houck said. "His desire to get to the ball has been evident. If you don't have somebody block him, he'll get to the ball eventually."
Hill said: "He's got what we call the hypnotic eye. He'll give you a whole lot of stuff,"--Hill waved his hands frantically--"and then make a move with a lot of force. A lot of times he'll give you that slap and get you off balance. It works real well for him."
Of course, the defensive lineman's head slap has been illegal for several years.
"Hopefully, he'll hit your shoulder," Hill said. "But sometimes he'll hit your head."
They don't talk much on the field.
"He's not very verbal," Hill said. "The only time I remember him saying anything on the field was my rookie year: 'Get away from me, rookie.' "
Sometimes in the Cowboys' flex defensive scheme, White, a former linebacker, will play back off the line of scrimmage.
"It makes him slower on the pass rush, but it changes my technique a good deal," Hill said. "I don't set up and try to get my hands on him right away. I have to wait until he gets there. And then he gets there and he's . . . got a good running start, which creates somewhat of a problem."
At that point, if any of the other Rams are standing around without much to do, Hill would welcome some assistance in handling the 6-4, 272-pound White.
"Our basic premise is always, if we have a free man, to look around and help out wherever (it's needed)," Hill said. "We don't man block. It's zone blocking."
As in Twilight Zone? Although Hill and three others were voted into the Pro Bowl, this hasn't been the best season for the Rams' offensive line.
"All during the year, we were doing everything we thought was right," Hill said. "We were working hard, but things weren't clicking. It was not like everything was falling apart. It would be one guy on one play and another guy on another play, and that's all it took to keep a play from being successful.
"Maybe we should have decided, 'OK, we all screw up on one play and get it over with.' We would have been a lot better off. But if everybody takes a different play to screw up, that's 11 plays.
"Part of it was we started pressing a bit and getting tight, and that sort of bred mistakes."
Part of it may have been the ho-hum syndrome. The line played well in big games against San Francisco and St. Louis, then was overwhelmed by the Raiders in a game the Rams didn't need to win.
"I wouldn't think we'd consciously have an approach where we'd go out and say, 'This is not as important, so we won't play as hard,' " Hill said. "We play all of 'em to win. But maybe, subconsciously, the human element, if it's not do-or-die. . . .
"You can either be too intense or not intense enough. I started the 49er game terribly. Coming out onto the field, I felt like I was gonna burst. I wanted to play. 'Let's play right now.' I was too anxious. The first two sacks were both mine, but it definitely wasn't from lack of intensity."
But it's also difficult to understand why a professional football player jumps offside--as if he can't remember the snap count from the time it takes to leave the huddle and get to the line of scrimmage.
"It could be a bunch of things," Hill said. "Usually when you come out of the huddle, you've got the play and you're coming up, and there might be an adjustment you have to make. You're thinking of all the possibilities that might be up there, and the count is sort of secondary. I'm trying to get my assignment straight in my head. Or you could get up to the line of scrimmage, and they're doing something . . . changing alignments."