For the first time in 13 years, Roy Jefferson is not reporting to a professional football training camp. He insists he is slightly relieved but miffed at treatment by the Washington Redskins.
He is relieved mostly because he is not sure his troublesome knees could take the pounding of two weeks of two-a-day practices and a half-dozen exhibition games.
He is miffed because he would have preferred to have had the opportunity to answer that question himself. The Redskins, he says never gave him that chance.
"I called them a couple of months ago and I asked if I could at least go out and take a physical," Jefferson said from his Annandale, Va., home. "I asked them to have George Allen call me back. Of course, he never did. Tim Temerario (Allen's executive assistant) called back and said absolutely not because I was a free agent.
"At that time, I felt I still wanted to play. But when he said no, that was the first time I was told officially 'Jefferson, we don't want you.' I had always thought I could still come to camp, and if I could handle it physically, I could make the club. I had never been formally told no until that day, and I felt kind of slighted about that."
But he was also not surprised.
"No, I never heard from Allen," Jefferson said. "But I know how the dude operates. You never hear anything as devastating as, 'You're cut', or 'You're retired' from George. You hear it from his assistants.
"It bothers me, but not that much because I was with them so long. It's Allen's problem, but one of these days it may backfire on him. He might need someone who he has not dealt straight up with, and somebody will say no right back to him."
Despite Jefferson's willingness to play hurt at wide receiver each of the last two seasons, he has never been one of Allen's all-time favorites. He zinged the coach occasionally on his radio show and Jefferson was quoted - he says out of context - extensively last year after delivering a blistering attack on Allen in an after-dinner speech.
Jefferson said today Allen also thought he was the anonymous player quoted as saying Sonny Jurgensen should have started ahead of Billy Kilmer in the Redskins opening round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams in 1974.
"That statement really bothered said it," Jefferson said. "I didn't, but 2 1/2 years later he was still bringing it up. George told me they narrowed it down to me. Maybe he did harbor some hate for me, I don't know."
"The thing about George is he'll take people who are supposed to be malcontents. As long as you produce for him, there's no problem. If you don't, it's not hard to figure out what will happen."
Jefferson could have changed his current situation if he had signed a contract in 1976. But he chose to play out his option, and the Redskins simply let him go. He insists the Redskins "never did make me a contract offer last year."
Jefferson apparently will spend the 1977 football season selling carpeting and lumber, and may work as a color analyst on NFL games for the CBS network. He says he has been asked to audition during a preseason game in August.
Jefferson also insisted he had offers to come to training camps of three other NFL teams, but "I'm just not sure my knee could handle it right now. I'll stay in shape on my own and if someone calls in the fall and asked me to play, I might consider it, depending on how the TV thing works out.
"If the Redskins called, I don't know what I'd do. As long as the money was right, I could consider it.
"They'll never have a Roy Jefferson Day, you can bet on that. They haven't had one for Taylor, and he's the all-time greatest receiver of them all. They should have done that last year."