Running back Mike Thomas, wide receiver Frank Grant and tackle Tim Stokes failed to show up for a mandatory team dinner today and became official holdouts in their salary disputes with the Washington Redskins.
Veterans were due in camp by 6 p.m. tonight, and all three were missing at that hour.
Grant and Thomas are in the option year of their contracts. Their agent, Guy Draper, met with Tim Temerario, Redskin chief negotiator, in Carlisle this morning.
"It was pleasant enough and I expected both of them to be here," Temerario said. "We're still talking. Are we close (to reaching an agreement)? I don't know what you mean by close. But there weren't any threats."
In an interview with The Washington Post earlier in the week, Draper said there was "a very real possibility" his clients might not come to camp.
Redskin coach George Allen referred to the holdouts as "The Three Musketeers," and said "the longer you're around nothing surprises you. At least we don't have to worry about a player strike - that's a plus. But that's the way it goes. You switch one problem for another."
"I just hope we don't have any problems. We're off to a good start in camp. If we do, we'll get them resolved some way."
Allen made his comments in the dinning hall before the evening meal. He said he would wait and see if the three players showed up for a scheduled 7:30 p.m. meeting before he announced any action the club would take against them.
All three failed to show for the meeting.
Stokes was in a different position than Grant and Thomas, who are both technically under contract in this, their option year. Stokes played out his option in 1976, and will not be allowed to practice with any team until he signs a new contract.
Stokes, reached by phone in Portland, Ore., his offseason residence, said "I don't really know what's going on. I'd like to get it settled. I'm as up in the air as anyone about it.
"I don't think we're that far apart. Yes, it involves money, doesn't it always?"
Stokes has been represented in negotiations by Los Angeles attorney Howard Slusher, also the representative for Reggie Haynes, another Redskin holdout. Haynes, a rookie tight end and the team's seventh-round pick in the college draft, was due in camp a week ago Saturday night.
Stokes was asked if he was giving any thought to switching attorneys or begin negotiating with the club himself.
"No," he said. "I tried to get the best negotiator I could and I think I did. It's been nerve-wracking enough without me getting involved in a contract negotiation. I'm a football player, no a negotiator."
Stokes reportedly has been offered a three-year contract for about $175,000. Incentive clauses could add as much as $10,000 per year.
Thomas has been seeking a contract in the $100,000 range and Grant is looking for a raise to $80,000 a year.
Draper, Grant and Thomas were unavailable to comment. Thomas' brother, Earl, a wide receiver trying to make the Redskins, said he did not know where his younger brother was or his plans.
No other players were missing. Gbris Hanburger, who had been quoted as saying he would not come to camp without a new contract, was among the first veteran players to arrive in Carlisle this morning.
"I think we're all looking forward to a great year," said veteran defensive tackle Diron Talbert, sporting a new-look chin beard flecked with gray hairs. "We've got quality players with experience and talent, and if we don't have any injuries, we'll be back in the playoffs again. That's our goal.
"We need a good training camp, that's very important to us, and I think we will. I don't care how long you play this game, you've got to come in with a good attitude. You can't complain about the heat, you just have to work your tail off and it will pay off."
The Redskins made their first major cut, trimming nine players, all free agents. Placed on waivers were defensive tackles Joey Jackson (New Mexico State) and Thurman Love (Southern); linebackers Willie Blackwell (Morris Brown) and Clarence Dennard (SMU), center Mile Jackson (Boston U.); defensive end Stan Lewis (Wayne State); safety Donald Murphy (Langston U, and Dunbar High, Washington, D.C.); wide receiver Steve Thompson (Tampa) and cornerbak Roussel Williams (Arizona) . . . Defensive tackle Tyrone Dye has a fractured foot. He will be out at least six weeks, probably longer . . . There was no practice today. Two-a-day workouts resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.