MacArthur Lane: From Penthouse to Doghouse

By Bob Underwood

MacArthur Lane was the Cardinals top draft pick in 1968 out of Utah State. The 6-foot 1-inch, 200 pound running back played sparingly his first two seasons in St. Louis, although he did lead the team in kick off returns in 1969.

Lane had his breakout season in 1970 when he scored 13 touchdowns and gained 1342 all-purpose yards out of the Big Red backfield. He scored 4 touchdowns against the Eagles in an October game at Busch Stadium and scored 3 touchdowns against the Boston Patriots in November.

Despite a Pro Bowl season, Lane was not satisfied. He told Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he was bitter at the end of the 1970 season because, “We just stopped running the ball,” thereby diminishing his chances of gaining 1000 yards, he believed. Additionally, after a 7-2 start, the Cards lost their last three games of the season and missed the playoffs.

MacArthur Lane was the Cards first round draft choice in 1968

Lane became further dissatisfied after the Cardinals failed to sign him after his Pro Bowl season. He became surly with the press and it affected his play on the field. He rushed for only 592 yards and three touchdowns under new head coach Bob Hollway.

“I should have been signed in January of 1971,” Lane told Jeff Meyers in a 1972 interview. I got like that because I was under a lot of pressure because I hadn’t signed. There there was a lot of pressure because we weren’t winning. The pressures were there, all right, both internal and external.”

At 29 years of age, Lane took a pay cut in 1971 and was playing for 90% of his 1969 salary which was based on two unproductive years.

Things boiled over after a late season loss in Philadelphia. A number of players were complaining about the defeat against the Eagles and Lane was among the most vocal as Bill Bidwill walked into the locker room. Lane directed his rage at the Cardinals vice president claiming that he was cheap and called him a “fat (SOB)” and that “he’s the cause of all this trouble.”

Several reporters witnessed the outburst and it received considerable press coverage in St. Louis.

Lane later apologize to Bidwill and said, “I flew off the handle… and I’m sorry.” But the damage had been done. Lane was suspended for the last game against the Dallas Cowboys and went back home to Oakland.

Bidwill, himself, appeared to be amused by the incident later telling reporters, “I know how he feels… I’m not happy about the season, either.”

Apparently, Lane and Bidwill could not mend their relationship and the big running back was traded to the Green Bay Packers for Donny Anderson a couple of months after the season.

Jeff Meyers of the St. Louis Post Dispatch caught up with Lane the following September after the trade.

“I have no regrets,” Lane said, reflecting on the locker room incident. “I think I accomplished a little bit, not only for myself, but of other players in St. Louis. I hope it opened their eyes.”

“There’s no reason to treat players the way the Cardinals were treating them. They get you into camp and won’t sign you. Then they prolong it and prolong it. You should be able to resolve something like that before you get to camp. If the guys didn’t learn something from my thing, I’m sorry for them. You don’t go to camp until you are signed.”

Lane recalled his negotiating sessions with Bidwill. “He’s a damn good bargainer,” he said. “He tries to get you as cheap as possible. I’d go in there and he’d crack a couple of jokes. We’d jive back and forth. You’d think things were hunky-dory. Then he’d get down to negotiation and things would change.”

“He’d put pressure on you. He’d say, ‘This is my final offer. I’m not going to give in.’ So I’d walk out. When we’d talk again, he’d offer me more. Why, guys had to prepare themselves mentally before they went in. You never knew what to expect.”

MacArthur Lane went on to play seven more seasons in the NFL for the Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. He passed away in 2019 at the age of 77.

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