In Palos Verdes, Calif., George Allen is gathering up the remnants of a bumper crop of apricots, lemons and olives in his backyard, drinking in his last look at the majestic Pacific Ocean view below and packing suitcases - and his Maalox - for a seventh trip to a sleepy town in central Pennsylvania.
At Redskin Park in Virginia, equipment manager Tommy McVean is putting the finishing touches on the annual massive movement of clothes, pads and assorted other football paraphernalia to Redskin Park North - the fieldhouse at lovely little Dickinson College.
Already he has loaded a tractor-trailor to capacity with 200 pairs of shoulder pads, 600 T-shirts, 400 pairs of shorts, 2,000 thigh and knee pads, 40 dummies, 250 cases of adhesive tape and 25,000 pounds of barbells and weights. Oh yes, the bicycle belonging to Ed (Double-O) Boynton, the team's crack security guard, is also en route.
And come 6 p.m. Saturday, six hours past July's midpoint, the advance guard of 108 football players and would-be players have arrived in Carlisle, Pa., the summer home of Washington's favorite football team, for the seven weeks of tedium and torture known as training camp.
For 50 assorted rookies, free agents and young injured reserve players, attendance the first week is mandatory. Also required to show are veteran quaterbacks Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann. So are players coming off major injuries last season.
A dozen or so other young veterans eager to show the coaches their determination, desire and drive to earn starting position should also line up for the traditional lavish annual feas of shrimp and steak served up Saturday night.
There will be plenty of other action the first week - two practices a day, endless meetings and a rookie scrimmage against the Beltimore Colts Saturday, July 23 at Annapolis.
The remaining veterans must report on the 24th, giving them two weeks to prepare for the first exhibition game at Cleveland on Aug. 8. The rookies, meanwhile, will scrimmage the Eagles at Hershey, Pa, July 28 and the Colts again at Carlisle High School July 30.
All those scrimmages are available for public consumption, but practice sessions are closed. The Dickinson Field is surrounded by an eight-foot canvased cyclone fence. Peeking is semitolerated, but bring field glasses and an apple for Double 0.
Allen and his staff will be far more concerned about what happens inside the chain links. As usual, he is bringing back a veteran team, with 17 players age 30 and over returning from last season's 10-4 wild-card playoff team.
"I look for us to be a better football team than last year," Allen said from California. "I can't say it's our best team ever because it's too early and there are too many ifs.
"I do know this. I certainly don't want to go through another training camp like we had last year. It was an ordeal. It was a struggle. It took all the enjoyment out of coaching, and it hurt us when it counted in the regular season."
A year ago the Redskins went through serious contract hassles with 28 unsigned players. There were serious injuries to Charley Taylor and Paul Laaveg, the unexpected retirement of Mike Bass, and frantic trades to fill gaping holes in the offensive line, secondary and wide receiver corps.
But this year, Allen insists, "we're going in with very few problems. If a guy wants to play out his option, fine. It's a whole new set of circumstances with the labor agreement. Hopefully, we won't have to make any major trades, but I'm on the phone everyday. You have to be."
Allen insists his own contract discussions with the club "are the farthest thing from my mind," particularly in view of team president Edward Bennett Williams recent surgery.
"I haven't talked to Ed since I left (for a California vacation three weeks ago), " Allen said. "As far as I'm concerned, his physical welfare is much more important than my contract. That's all I want to say about it.
"No, it won't affect me. My personality, habits and organization won't change. I'm not concerned about it. I would have preferred to have it completed by the start of camp, but there's still plenty of time to talk about it."
Many of Allen's players, meanwhile, seem to have more than the usual "I-can't-wait-to-get-started" enthusiasm for the new year.
"I'm really excited about it. I think everyone is," said running back-special teamer Bob Brunet. "For the first time in my career, I brought my whole family up here four weeks before camp started. Everybody is working out, everybody is in great shape.
"I haven't felt his excited about a team seince the Super Bowl year. Why? It's a combination of things. There's no big hassle over the contracts. They've got a new conditioning coach, Jim Curzi, really a gung-ho enthusiastic guy who's been a great help. And we kind of laid an egg in the playoffs last year. We know we're better than that. Now it's time to prove it."
There are other reasons for all these good vibrations. The return of Taylor at wide receiver and Laaveg at guard after missing all of 1976 with injuries should help.
The new faces of 1976 - John Riggins, Jean Gugett, Calvin Hill, Jake Scott and Joe Lavender - should be throughly acclimated to Allen's system.
A number of Redskins - Chris Hanburger, Jerry Smith, Ron McDole, Pat Fischer, Len Hauss, Larry Brown and Kilmer, among others - may well behaving thein final fling in the NFL. A championship season would be a wonderful way to go out.
The schedule is in the Redskin's favor, with only two of the team's six nondivisional games against teams with winning records a year ago.
But us usual, not all is sunshine and roses. Allen says his main priorities include an improved pass rush on defense and a more potent passing attack on offense.
He says he is tinkering with the notion of a three-man front line four linebackers, a defense that has been in the playbook the last two seasons. "I prefer not to go that way," he said. "We dogged (blitzed) too much last year, and I want to avoid that.
"We'll see how things go along in training camp before we make that decision. Hopefully, some of our younger defensive linemen can come through for us."
Allen pooh-poohs the notion that his team is too old, insisting that for every aging starter there is a solid young semiexperienced player to step in and "do the job for us."
Allen says he would be pleased if five to seven rookies or free agents made the team. "And I'm not just talking about them playing special teams," he said.
"A guy like Duncan McColl (the team's fourth-round draft choice) has a chance to play regularly." So too does Greg Hartle, who will challenge Harold McLinton and Rusty Tillman to start at middle linebacker.
Allen says he is somewhat concerned that his regulars will have only two weeks in camp before them first preseason game, a provision in the labor contract with the players association.
"I like to have them in a little longer," he said. "If a guy comes in overweight and out of shape now, I won't have much patience with him.
"But we've had the best offseason in the seven years I've been here. We worked more on conditioning than on football, and I think it's going to pay off.
"The big thing is we have to get off to a fast start this year. We haven't had that since 1972, and it's a must. I think we can. I know we can. I can't wait to get started."
The Redskins, position by position: QUARTERBACK
Once again, Allen has annointed Kilmer No. 1 ahead of Theismann going into training camp," but you need two solid quarterback. Last year, 19 (NFL) quarterbacks had serious injuries. Every team has to have two, and we have two of the best."
Allen says he has not decided whether to keep a third quarterback on his two-man taxi squad. Free-agent signers Brian Dowling and Jerry Trooien are the other quarterbacks on the roster.
Kilmer has suffered serious injuries each of the last two seasons and at 37, he will be a constant question mark as to ability to take the pounding of a 14-game season. But he wins games, 45 of the 60 he's started for Washington.
Theismann gives the Redskins the so-called extra dimension with his scrambling ability. He may well play out his option and scramble elsewhere if he does not draw enough playing time. RUNNING BACK
The Redskins are loaded here. Mike Thomas comes off his first 1,000-yard season and John Riggins finished strong the last half of the 1976 campaign.
Calvin Hill was unhappy sitting on the bench last year and figures on being used a bit more to spell Thomas, who has had a history of nagging injuries. And Larry Brown will be around to make a big third-down catch in this, most likely, his final year.
The Redskins hope Willie Spencer can lose a few pounds and play some fullback, and Allen says two drafted rookies, James Sykes and Mike Northington, have been impressive in pre-preseason workouts. RECEIVES
Charley Taylor comes back after missing the 1976 season with a shattered shoulder, and Frank Grant surely will breathe a big-league sigh of relief.
Grant won't be seeing as much double and triple coverage this year and returns to his old flanker spot. With Taylor back in the lineup, the Redskins should improve upon their position as 16th in pass offense in the NFL.
Larry Jones and Brian Fryer, two young swifties, also return from the injured reserve list and should make the team.
Jean Fugett is solid at tight end, with Jerry Smith returning for one more year.
Allen raves about Reggie Haynes, a seventh-round pick, but the Redskins kept only tight ends last year. Haynes has not signed a contract, either. OFFENSIVE LINE
The line blocked well enough last year for the team to gain more yards rushing than any team in Redskin history. There is depth at every position, and the return of Laaveg at guard will be a major help if he can avoid the injuries that sidelined him the last two years.
Center Len Hauss is the spiritual leader of the team, and his backup, Bob Kuziel, can do a decent job at any posiiton on the line. Allen wants better pass blocking; Redskin quarterbacks were sacked 38 times last season. DEFENSIVE LINE
Although the Redskins had 44 sacks of the quaterback last year, Allen says the pass rush must improve dramatically. Ron McDole had his usual solid season in 1976, but the same could not be said for several of his teammates.
"They all can play better, and they'll have to," said Allen, who is thinking about asking veteran Verlon Biggs to come out of retirement to play end. McColl will be given a good luck and Allen is high on young Dallas Hickman and Karl Lorch.
"If they didn't get somebody to take my job away, I'd be shocked," says middle linebacker Harold McLinton. So free agent Greg Hartle was signed as this year's new challenger. Hartle missed all of last season with the Cardinals with a knee injury, and that is the major question about him.
Chris Hanburger is making noises about no contract, no coming to camp, but Allen counters, "We'll work it out, we always do. Chris has us in the right defense 90 per cent of the time. We need him. He's one of the best signal-callers I've ever had."
Brad Dusek had a solid year in 1976 and should continue to start on the outside. Suicidal Peter Wysocki is impatient to play, and if Hanburger is not available, he would be a special kind of replacement. SECONDARY
A year ago, the Redskins led the NFL in preventing pass completions - allowing 41.1 per cent - and made 26 interceptions, second best in the NFL. They did it with two new starters. Cornerback Joe Lavender and free safety Jake Scott should be better after that year under Allen's complex system.
Ken Houston is the best strong safety in football. Pat Fischer keeps destroying the big boys and Brig Owens, Eddit Brown and Garrard Williams are adequate in reserve.
Age, of course, is always a factor. Scott, 31, was hobbled most of last year with a bad ankle and is coming into camp after offseason shoulder surgery. Houston is 32 and Fischer 37. Both played all 14 games in 1976; Allen needs them to go the distance again. SPECIAL TEAMS
The special teams led the NFL in fewest yards allowed on kickoff returns, 16.2 yards per runback, second best in NFL history.
Eddie Brown returned punts 646 yards, a figure topped only once in the NFL. Kicker Mark Moseley led the NFC in scoring with 97 points. Redskins led the league in punt returns with a 13.2 yard average, and blocked five field goals.
There are no major problems here, though Allen would like to improve on kickoff returns. The addition of Larry Jones should help. JOnes will probably handle most kickoff returns, with Brown specializing in punt returns.
All the other merry madmen - Tillman, Wysocki and Brunet-return, and Allen no doubt will turn up a few more effective crazies. Punter Mike Bragg's average fell off slightly last year, but he attempted many more coffin-corner and out-of-bounds punts.