Los Angeles Daily News

January 15, 1989

Written by DAVE ANDERSON

Quote: "DRYER LIKES HIS NEW ROLE

Playing Hunter different than playing football

Inside a tree-shaded Tudor home on a sunny street in Los Angeles, Fred Dryer, the television

detective known as Hunter, was talking to his director about the next take.

In this scene the Los Angeles plainclothes policeman is checking out the vestibule where the dead

body landed after being thrown downstairs.

"This time," he said, "I'm going to walk a little faster." In the next take. Hunter moved quicker,

like a detective on a murder case who didn't have any time to waste.

"Cut, that was beautiful," the director said. "Print it." Satisfied now, Fred Dryer strolled out to his

tan trailer while the crew set up for the next scene.

Once an agile 225-pound defensive end for 13 seasons with the Rams and the New York Giants,

he now has the title role in the popular television show "Hunter," which is in its fifth season. But

unlike so many athletes who talk about someday "being an actor" as if they could just take off

their uniforms and do it, he understood that he had to be prepared.

"I knew I wanted to do this, but I kept my mouth shut," he was saying now in the trailer. "People

assumed I got it because I played football, but in 1981 after the Rams released me, I transferred

all my energy to acting. I went to Nina Foch's school. I read for parts as a 'day' player. I did

different roles in television and movies. By the time 'Hunter' came along, I was ready. And in this

business, nobody can say: 'Fred, you're 35. You have to leave.'"

He had to leave the National Football League, but as with most former players, the NFL has

never left him. Dryer has a theory as to why so many of pro football's hunted, its quarterbacks,

have been broken and battered this season.

"Violence is at its zenith in pro football," he said. "Every year the game is played by bigger, faster

people. Ever since they moved the hashmarks closer to the middle of the field, they exposed the

quarterback. "There's no short side of the field to protect the quarterback anymore. When the

hashmarks were closer to the sideline, the blitzes came from either the strong side or the weak

side. But now the blitzes come from all over."

According to Dryer, in his era the defensive linemen controlled the pass rush.

"Now the linebackers control it, they're the open guys," he said.

"Quarterbacks send out five receivers with nobody back there to block the linebackers. And when

the defensive linemen see that, it tees them off. The biggest people in the game are more teed off

than ever by the time they get to the quarterback."

Dryer believes that artificial turf has contributed to quarterback injuries.

"I'll watch games on natural grass," he said, "but not games on artificial turf. It reminds me too

much of the bitter preparation I needed to play on that stuff.

"Different shoes. Different pads. I used to turn my knee pads upside down to prevent rug burns

on my shins. But even with elbow pads, I had sores on my elbows that didn't heal for four months

after the season because of the poison in that artificial turf.

"Running backs and wide receivers love it because they can cut quickly. But linemen hate it. I had

to give myself an extra 3 or 4 yards to come to a stop. If you get knocked down, it's like falling in

the street. "I had kidney pains from body whiplash from being slammed down on it. After a game

I had to ice my ankles, knees, elbows and neck. I had five concussions in football: three from

kicks, two from being slammed to artificial turf."

Dryer questioned the standards of the NFL Players Association as well as those of some of the

players.

"Baseball has set the union standards for professional leadership in sports," he said. "In both pro

football strikes, the strike never came from within the players. Both times the players were told by

the union what they had to do. The players never struck because they knew it was the right thing

to do. In pro football, the union just wants to be liked by everybody. And if you do that, you

don't have standards. "I never had a drug problem. I never had a drinking problem. I just had a

winning problem. If some of the players had standards, they wouldn't be on dope. I think the fans

are tired of seeing boring, rich drug addicts playing football."

"When I look at Lawrence Taylor, on the field he's licensed and paid and admired for what he

does. Off the field, he's monitored. But the only thing that's going to establish Lawrence Taylor's

career is his standards off the field. How he conducts himself off the field is what's going to have

a lasting effect on what he was as a football player. "Lawrence Taylor is such a good linebacker,

he's a role model for his teammates. But if I was his teammate now, I'd be teed off at him for his

suspension." Lean and tanned, the 6-foot-5-inch Dryer stood up and changed into a different shirt,

a different tie and a different sports jacket for his next scene.

"I was looked at as a weak link because I played defensive end at 225," he said. "But that drove

me to play harder until I was legislated against by the new rules that changed the way offensive

linemen were allowed to block.

"They just brought in every big bartender they could find and let them hold. But by then I knew I

wanted to do what I'm doing now." With a knock on the door, it was time for Dryer to return to

the house for his next scene as Hunter.

"I was replaceable in the NFL," he said. "But there's only one guy who can play Hunter and that's

me. The weight of that responsibility defines me now."