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Ron "Cat" Catlan, 40-year-old star quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, experiences a professional crisis after suffering a knee injury in a final preseason game. In spite of Coach Jim Southerd's assurance that he has three good seasons left, Catlan realizes his days are numbered, particularly since rookie Kelly Williams is improving with every practice session. Catlan receives attractive business offers from both Richie Fowler and Harvey Hess, but he sees the business world as dull compared to pro football. He also fears starting a new career at his age. Further complicating Catlan's crisis is the collapse of his marriage. His wife, Julie, neglected by her husband, has immersed herself in fashion designing and has become something of a celebrity. Though she understands her husband's predicament, she can neither console nor counsel him since they are barely able to communicate. Depressed, Catlan enters into an affair with Ann Marley, a socialite in the sporting goods business, but she is also unable to help resolve his conflict. After being shaken further by stormy scenes with Julie and Richie, and an encounter with an impoverished former football pro, Catlan prepares for the season opener by using novocaine and a steel brace to fortify his injured knee. At first the fans boo the veteran quarterback, but they cheer him when he engineers a spectacular touchdown drive. Following a fumble, Catlan takes over again; but as he prepares to pass, he is crushed by several defensive linemen. He lies motionless in the center of the playing field, while the crowd sits in stunned silence.