The other VIP guests at the table with John Riggins said yesterday they weren't offended. Redskins officials privately said they were concerned and embarrassed. Riggins' agent, Douglas Woloshin, said Riggins told him "he had a good time -- a very nice time, in fact."
Riggins, once more the center of Washington attention, wasn't saying anything in public, himself.
But the night before, at the Washington Press Club's Salute to Congress dinner, Riggins was talking.
"Come on, Sandy baby, loosen up," Riggins told one tablemate, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "You're too tight."
He then walked over to O'Connor's husband and knelt beside him and put his arm on John O'Connor's shoulder. Then he dropped to the floor and fell asleep.
Guests at the table of 12 -- which included Virginia Gov. Charles Robb and senior editors of People magazine -- said Riggins slept for about 45 minutes, often snoring during the program, which included a humorous speech by Vice President George Bush.
When the program was over, Riggins' wife Mary Lou awakened him. Two editors with People, which had invited Riggins to the dinner, helped him out of the Sheraton Washington ballroom to his waiting limousine.
By that time, the O'Connors were long gone. They left before the program started.
"Certainly we didn't leave early because of his Riggins' behavior," John O'Connor said yesterday. Supreme Court spokeswoman Toni House said that O'Connor had an appointment to appear at an early morning prayer breakfast yesterday, and so left the dinner early.
Mary Lou Riggins told United Press International yesterday that her husband had not passed out. "He fell asleep is more accurate," she said. She added she believed Justice O'Connor thought Riggins was "very entertaining."
"We had wine at the table, and everyone was having a good time and being a little boisterous," said People assistant managing editor Hal Wingo, who assisted Riggins out of the hotel. "There was no sense in which Justice O'Connor left early because of this. She told me when she arrived that she would have to leave by 10:45 and she actually stayed later than that."
Wingo said that when Riggins told O'Connor to "loosen up," "she laughed and said, 'Okay.' She took it in great stride. I was sitting next to her and she was very gracious, laughing and smiling back. We thought it was kind of a delightful mix of personalities to have at the table."
Guests said they had seen Riggins drinking during the reception before the dinner, and one guest at the table said, "He'd had a lot of wine."
Among Redskins officials, the tone was more somber.
Said one: "I'd say we're concerned, yeah. Nothing has been done about it. I don't know how long we'll let it go on. We're concerned about him as a human being. I think the guy also doesn't use good discretion at times."
"I have nothing to say about it," said Redskin general manager Bobby Beathard. "I heard it on the radio. I saw it on television and I got a call from you. I called Joe Gibbs to tell him. Joe was in a meeting, took the information and said he'd be talking to me."
Beathard said he had no plans to talk to Riggins, adding "I'll wait until I hear from Mr. Cooke."
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and owner Jack Kent Cooke could not be reached for comment.
Most of the 1,250 guests at the filet mignon dinner were unaware of the activity at the People table. But guests seated at a UPI table nearby heard Riggins talking loudly, and then saw him lie down on the floor, his black tie askew and top shirt button open. Waiters and waitresses stepped over him as they served dessert and cleared the tables.
A spokesman for Robb said the governor thought it was "definitely a memorable evening," but said Robb would make no further comment.
One guest said Riggins "appeared comfortable . . . He was lying first on his back, then rolled over and was on his stomach."
Another guest at an adjoining table said Riggins' head landed at the feet of actor Hugh O'Brian.
"O'Brian told people in a courteous way to 'let the guy sleep,' " said Marin Allen, wife of UPI White House reporter and dinner cochairman Ira Allen. "People checked Riggins a couple of times during the show to make sure he was breathing."
Gerry Clifford, People's Washington bureau chief, said Riggins "was just taking a rest on the floor for a few minutes."
She also said the incident was "not the horror of the western world. He was funny and amusing. It was not a deterrent of any kind to the evening. The evening was not as stuffy as usual. It was a very funny evening. No one was dying of embarrassment.
"Too much has been made of it. The tone of the evening was lighthearted. John Riggins was a guest of People magazine. He was as wonderful in conversation as he is on the playing field, and he delighted his guests with his interest and knowledge of their various fields and we look forward to having him as our guest some other time."
Clifford said that earlier in the evening Riggins, who has a chronic back problem, told her he was in pain.
"He was in a back brace," she said. "At one point, the chair had to be adjusted because he said it was bothering him."
Associated Press photographer Ron Edmonds said he saw two men escorting a man out of the ballroom's VIP door, but did not recognize the man as Riggins.
"They were dragging him, feet behind," he said, and added the person being dragged was mumbling incoherently.
Press Club president Susan Garland said Riggins approached the dais early in the evening and spoke to Bush.
"There was a lot of nice, fun banter," she said. "He seemed fine then."