Billy Kilmer, describing himself as relaxed and refreshed, said today he is delighted to be back playing football for the Redskins, that he has tentatively agreed to terms on a new contract, and that "my No. 1 goal this season is to stay healthy for 14 straight games."
In 45-minute interview today two hours before the first practice session of his 17th year in professional football, Komer sat on a bench in front of the Bildle Field locker room and discussed a wide range of subjects.
"Every year," he said," everybody is so optimistic at this point. Well, by nature, I'm not a very optmistic guy, but potentially, we've got as good an offensive team this year as any team in the National Football League.
"We've got the healthiest offensive line I've seen since the 1971-72 season. You guys won't have to be writing about the line Laavey as strong as he's looking will be a big plus, and we've got a lot of depth.
"We're in great shape with the running backs. There's no reason John Riggins can't get 1,000 yards this year if he gets the ball 20 times a game, and I think that's what we'll be shooting for."
A year ago, Riggins averaged about 11 carries a game and had 572 yards for a 3.5-yard average. Kilmer said today he took full responsibility.
"Last year, Mike Thomas started off running great early in the season so I gave him the ball as much as I could," Kilmer said. "I always like to go with a hot back.
"When John was getting criticized, it was partially my fault. I probably should have given it to him more often. As the season progressed and teams keyed on Mike, I did give it to John, and this year, I'd like to even it out ever more."
Kilmer said the ideal Redskin offense would be 20 carries a game for Riggins, 20 more for Thomas and 20 passes. "I don't want to punish a guy, wear him out. I'm going to be more selective.
"The fact that guys like Riggins, Calvin Hill and Jean Fugett have a full year under the system is also going to be a big help. And Charley Taylor is going to give us a big lift, especially blocking downfield and taking pressure off Frank Grant.
"Last year, Roy Jefferson was playing hurt. He had bad knees, and anybody who saw the films knew it. He couldn't come off the line like he used to. As a result, teams were jamming him up with one guy, and Frank was seeing three men on him all the time. I'm not criticizing Roy. He did a heck of a job. he played hurt, and we needed him because he was really the only guy we had."
Kilmer, of course, also played hurt, missing three complete games with a deep muscle tear in his right shoulder. "I literally could not throw a football from here to that bench over there," he said, pointing at a spot less than five feet away.
"But my arm has completely recovered. I threw 39 passes in that playoff game against Minnesota, and it was all right by then. The injury last year was such a freak thing. I got hit (by Eagle and Will Wynn in the third game of the season) just right to really mess it up. I know I don't want to go through that again.
"Those nagging little injuries are what I'd like to prevent this year. My arm seems a lot livelier, it's got a lot more snap in it, and I'd like to keep it that way."
And so, Kilmer said he will probably take a slightly different approach to training camp this year. "I'm going to try not to throw as much, keep myself from getting overworked," he said." I don't think I have to prove anything in camp."
Kilmer also confirmed today that he did once ask George Allen to trade him a few days after the end of the tumultuous 1976 season, but after I got away fora while it didn't become that important to me.
"You know I've spent the last three years living in the (Washington) area in the offseason, and this year I was in New Orleans or Los Angeles most of the time. I wasn't reading the papers, I was pretty much out of touch with it."
Kilmer, of course, had been widely quoted as being unhappy with the fans and the media in Washington toward the end of the season."
"I suppose if I'd lived there again and listened to the fans all the time, it might have been a little more testy for me, "he said: "But I don't even think about wat happened last year. It's in the past, and as far as I'm concerned, it's over. I feel totally refreshed.
"If it had been a major problem, I wouldn't be here. George (Allen) and I get along well, and I have no problems with the team. I like playing with them and playing in Washington, so I'll just let all of that other stuff go. My main concern is winning."
Kilmer is on the option year of a one-year contract and said today he had come to a tentative agreement, subject to Allen's approval, for a new one-year pact.
That would mean he will be contractually tied to the Redskins this season and in 1978. Kilmer who will be 38 in September, said he had no idea how long he would keep playing. "If I can get by this season pretty healthy, I'll think about another year.
"Sonny (Jurgenen) played when he was 41. Earl Morrall took Miami to the Super Bowl when he was 38. Just because you're older doesn't mean you can't play or perform.
And what about his annual battle with Joe Theismann to retain his starting status?
"There's always a threat, every year," he said, "and I don't care who you are. It's competition. you just do your job, and if you don't, you'll be replaced."
Allen said today he would probably give Kilmer the same amount of work in the preseason as usual. Kilmer has been playing about a half in each exhibition game.
"Whatever George wants to do is fine with me," Kilmer said." I'm just looking forward to having a good season, and a healthy season. And I'd love to go to the Super Bowl, especially this year because they're playing it in New Orleans. That's my town. Yeah, going back there would be very nice."