For George Allen, the Redskins' Monday night preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns will be the first opportunity "to start developing a winning attitude," and perhaps the last chance to "play a lot of players so we can be better equipped to make the cuts" Tuesday morning.
Allen has been pleased with the first three weeks of training camp. He said today, "It's probably the best camp we've had since 1971 or 1972. They've worked hard, they've got a good attitude, the problems have been minimal and we've got everyone in camp. Compared to other clubs, we're in good shape. Now, we've just got to learn to play together."
For offensive tackle George Starke and many of the other veterans, the game will be mostly a chore, one of a half-dozen affairs played primarily to put a jingle in the pockets of club owners.
Certainly, the veterans will tell you, the contact will prepare them for the regular season by improving their timing their concentration and their conditioning.
"All I'm concerned about in the preseason," said Starke, the pragmatist, "is avoiding injury. You just can't let yourself get hurt in these games. Sure I enjoy playing. I wouldn't even mind if they played 20 regular-season games. But to get hurt for nothing, that makes no sense to me at all."
Still, for several young men still on the Redskin roster, the exhibition opener may be their first and last football game of the season. All 28 NFL teams must cut down to 60 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday and the Redskins currently list 79 men in camp.
A crowd of 35,000 is expected in Cleveland. The game will broadcast in the Washington area by WJLA-TV-7 at 8 p.m.
For Joe Harris, a head-hunting linebacker with a legimate shot at making the Redskin roster, the game with the Browns will be the first opportunity to show coaches he is for real, that the thumping tackles in three weeks of practice were not flukes.
"I've got to show them I belong," said Harris, a 6-foot-1, 225-pounder who passed up the National Football League in 1975 to play two years with Hamilton in the Canadian League.
"I've also got to show them I can play on the special teams. That's how I've got to make this team. And if I get the opportunity to play a little at linebacker (he will), then I've got to show them I'm aggressive and that I don't make mistakes."
Harris, a standout at Georgia Tech, once was a eighth-round draft choice of the Chicago Bears. He chose Canada, he said, because he didn't believe he'd get a chance in Chicago "and I figured I could play up there a couple of years and then make it in the NFL.
"I've always been a hitter, it's something I've always had in me, my style. I've got to be physical and I've got to use my quickness. Sometimes people say I'm too aggressive in practice, but I don't think you can play this game and not be aggressive.
"I don't go out there and try to hurt anybody, but I am gonna let'em know I'm there."
Harris is locked in an interesting race with two resident tough guys, Pete Wysocki and Stu O'Dell, for a reserve outside linebacking position. Two of the three probably will make the team, or, depending on injuries, all three could stay.
There will be other fascinating battles for positions over the next five weeks, and the coaching staff will be looking to answer a number of questions starting Monday night.
They will be watching cornerback Gerard Williams closely, because no one really knows if he is capable of stepping in as a starter if Pat Fischer's sore back and 37-year-old legs give out.
With Fischer still in traction in Carlisle Hospital, Williams will start at left corner and will be tested by the likes of Reggis Rucker and Paul Warfield, two savvy, veteran all-pro receivers.
"We thank Gerard can play," said secondary coach Ralph Hawkins. "Now he's got to go out and show us."
The Redskins still do not know if veteran guard Paul Laavery has recovered sufficiently from knee surgery. Laaveg says his knee has given him no problems and that he welcomes the opportunity to play again. "I've got to find out some things myself," he said.
The Redskins also hope to find out a little more about a half-dozen young receivers still on the roster. Any they may give that grand old man - Charley Taylor - a bit of action. I would be Taylor's first game since he shattered his shoulder diving to make a catch in the preseason opener a year ago.
"George says he's letting me make the decision," Taylor said. "If Billy (Kilmer) plays, I might go with him. I feel good, I'm getting my confidence back. Of course George is superstitious, too. He knows I got hurt in the first preseason game last year, so maybe he'll just say no."
"I'm leaning not to play him," Allen said."If he came up to me and said he'd like to, I'd consider it. But we've still got time with him. There's no rush, and he's so important to us.
The receivers will be going up against a Cleveland defense that held opponents to 145 yards passing a game in 1976. The Browns also had the fourth-best rushing defense in the NFL last year, one of the major reasons for their 9-5 season.
Allen has said he plans to substitute freely all night, and that most of his regulars will play about a half.
Quarterback Kilmer, however, probably will stick around for a quarter or so before giving way to Joe Theismann. Calvin Hill will open at tailback with John Riggins at fullback, but they probably will join Kilmer on the sideline after the first period.
A number of veterans will not make this trip because they are recovering from minor injuries. They include Fischer, defensive tackle Diron Talbert (lump on chest); safeties Jake Scott and Eddie Brown (both with strained groin muscles), and running back Mike Thomas (strained hamstring).
Williams will replace Fischer, Bill Brundige will open at right tackle in place of Talbert and Brig Owens will take Scott's position at free safety and also call defensive signals if Chris Hamburger is out of the game.
The Redskins placed quarterback Jerry Trooien (Wisconsin-River Falls) and wide receiver Bill Bryant (Ithaca) on waivers and said Ron Wade, a defensive end from California State-Davis had voluntarily retired to stay on the coast with his ailing mother. The Redskins said they would invite Wade back to camp in 1978 . . . Tim Temerario will meet with Theismann's agent. Ed Keating in Cleveland Monday. Thomas remains unsigned, and negotiations are expected to be resumed Monday between team president Edward Bennett Williams and Guy Drpaer, Thomas' agent . . . The team had a one'hour practice today and will leave for Cleveland Monday morning.