The other night at the dinner table, Pete Wysocki, the Redskins' resident comedian, curled up in the fetal position and began screaming "cramp, cramp, somebody get the trainers."
At the time - the first night after the first practice - everyone had a good guffaw. But now, after three days and seven practice sessions in the unyielding sun and humidity, heat exhaustion is no laughing matter in the Redskin training camp.
The heat - temperatures in the mid-90s and awful humidity - has become the dominant topic of conversation in the dormitories, the locker room and the training table in this, the first week of camp.
If you think you've had trouble coping with Washington's unbearable weather, try running around for five hours wtih an extra 15 pounds of equipment strapped onto your back. And when that is over, add on an extra 20 minutes of wind sprints, a 12-minute run, or a 10-minute session of lifting weights.
Already, a half-dozen Redskins, including quarterback Billy Kilmer, have succumbed to the heat, and the accompanying loss of fluids.
The Redskins have already begun to take precautions to prevent further problems. Every practice now has at least one water break, with players guzzling down can upon can of Gatorade.
Trainers also are providing squirts of cold water during the workouts, a relatively new practice for a George Allen training camp. And at the first sign of dizziness or cramps, the players are immediately whisked into the air-conditioned comfort of the training room.
"We've never quite had it (the heat) last his long," Allen said after today's second steamy practice of the day.
This is good conditioning weather and it will pay off in the long run if they say with it. But some of our old veterans would be suffering if they were here.
"I never believed in giving them water because I felt it disrupted practice and (not giving) it also helped improve their mental toughness. But in this type of weather, they need it, they need fluids, so I've changed."
There have been other changes in this Redskin camp, other changes in this Redskin camp, two of the most significant ones involving new assistant coaches.
Jim Curzi, the stretch and conditioning expert, is Mr. Man in Motion, a holler guy who conducts the pre-practice calisthenics on the run and never stops talking. Curzi even has the reporters working on a flexibility program, the better, no doubt, to pound out the copy.
That new receivers coach, Pete McCulley, is also in marked contrast to his predecessor, Dick Bielski. McCulley, who's voice is barely above a whisker off the field, is a regular bellower on it.
"Get those goalposts down," he screamed today at a receiver running his pattern with both hands above his head. "Didja ever see an Olympic champion run like that?"
There have been several disappointments in these first four days. Allen tells reporters every day that holdout tight end Reggie Haynes, a seventh-round pick, is missing the opportunity of a lifetime by refusing to sign a contract.
"I can't even get in touch with the kid," says Tim Temerario. Allen's chief assistant. "The only phone number I've got is his girl friend's. Maybe he's got a couple more."
The Redskins had also hoped to see Duncan McColl perform a bit more this first week, but the rookie defensive end has been unable to practice because of an ankle he sprained playing basketball two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, there are several other decent prospects in camp, and the competition at the receiver position is going to be downright fierce once veterans Charley Taylor and Frank Grant arrive on Sunday.
Allen said today he was pleased with rookie running backs James Sykes and Mike Northington, and free-agent safety Mark Murphy has been impressive, as well. Today he was involved in a violent collision and had to be helped off the field. He was back three plays later, and the coaches were smiling.
Other players Allen has singled out for praise include linebacker Joe Harris, a former Canadian Football League player and a wicked hitter, and Curtis Akins, a guard a year ago on the injured reserve list who has been switched to defensive end.
The first two players were cut this morning - defensive tackle Kurt Kampendahl, a defensive tackle from Eureka College, and punter Bill Ferguson, from Simpson College in Iowa . . . Merritt Kersey, a free-agent punter who once kicked for the Eagles, reported and made the afternoon practice. He also wowed the group with some impressive hang-times . . . Linebacker Adrian Hickmon entered Carlisle Hospital and will have to have his appendix removed . . . Also on today's sick list were linebacker Stu O'Dell and Cliff Laboy. Both became ill with a stomach virus during the morning workout and had to leave the field . . . Offensive lineman were forced to run for 12 minutes after the second workout and guard Dan Nugent, who had the virus yesterday, had to be helped from the field after two laps. Pete Solverson finished the run, but a trainer ran with him for a quarter mile to make sure he was all right. When the ordeal was over two trainers gave him a rub down on the track to keep him from cramping up . . . Assistant coach Ralph Hawkins says he's already lost 17 pounds since Sunday.