Randy Johnson flew into Green Bay, Wisc., last Nov. 15 to sign on as a quarterback with the Packers. But before he put pen to a contract, Green Bay coach Bart Starr had a message for him.
"George Allen just called," Starr told Johnson, who had been released two weeks earlier by the Redskin coach. "He wants you toplay for them again."
This was the day after the Redskins' most humiliating defeat of the 1976 season: the loss to the previously winless Giants, the Redskins' fourth defeat in 10 games. Allen apparently was miffed enough to try and win Johnson back.
"But I didn't call him back until after I had signed with the Packers," Johnson recalled today. "I know if I got on the phone with George, he just might talk me into coming back. It's funny. Bart didn't have to tell me George had called. He could have just signed me first and then given me the message.
"When I saw that was how Starr operated, well, I felt I could help the Packers more than I could George. And eventually, even if I went back and got a chance to play in Washington, sooner or later it would get down to Billy against Joe against Randy.
"I'd had enough of that, and I didn't want any more."
Johnson came to the Redskins from the World Football League in 1975 and quickly moved ahead of Joe Theismann as the No. 2 quarterback. He came off the bench to help defeat the Giants in a critical game midway through the season, but in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of professional football all of that was forgotten later that year.
Johnson's downfall came in the first two games of that season. When Kilmer was hurt in the Dallas game, Johnson came on in relief trailing by only seven points. But he could not move the football team and Dallas knocked the Redskins out of the play-offs in a 31-10 rout.
The following week, the Redskins were bombed in their season finale by the Philadelphia Eagles. Johnson, by his own admission, "played just awful. But I wasn't the only one. There were 43 guys on the roster that day, and none of us was ready to play, not after the playoffs were out of sight.
"That Dallas game was the most bitter memory I have. I didn't take a snap from center the week before that game. They were treating it like a playoff game, and Billy got all the work. I remember flying down to Dallas and telling Jerry Smith, "I hope they don't need me, cause I'm as rusty as hell."
"Then, sure enough, Billy gets hurt and I was expected to go in there and perform a miracle. It wasn't really fair. But the Philadelphia game was the one George really blamed me for, and I guess I was as much to blame as anyone.
"In fact, the day George released me, Tim Temerario (Allen's executive assistant) told me, 'Son, with everything considered, thatlast game against the Eagles really hurt you.'"
Johnson was released Nov. 3 to make room for wide receiver Danny Buggs.
George kept apologizing to me," Johnson said, "but I told him I thought he made the right move. He needed another receiver and a special-team guy, and quarterback was the only position he was three deep at." So, Johnson says, he has no ill feelings towards Allen over his experiences in Washington and he still keeps in touch with many of his old friends on the team, particularly Kilmer.
"I've always been his(Kilmer's) biggest fan," Johnson said. "All I wanted to do was back him up, and I always believed I could have done a better job than Joe. Now don't get me wrong. I think he(Theismann) is probably the most talented athlete on that team and he and I always got along all right.
"But without sounding trite, I think Billy should be No. 1, and Joe should keep his mouth shut until Billy retires. Billy's the leader, he's contributed more to that organization than any quarterback in the team's history.
"I didn't really appreciate some of the things Joe would say about Billy and the way he thought things should be. If you don't like something, the best thing to do is to get yourself out of the situation or just keep quiet about it.
"Even when Sonny (Jurgensen) was there, Joe was supposed to have said he should have been playing, which is ridiculous. I don't hear that much about Joe this year. Maybe he's finally keeping still. I hope so.
Johnson, meanwhile, is a back-up to Parker quarterback Lynn Dickey.
"He's the man of the future, he's big, he's strong and he can throw the football," Johnson said. "They've told me I'm No. 2, and I can accept that. If anything happens, I've got to be ready, and I am."
Johnson demonstrated that last yearwhen he started the Packers' final game and led a come-from-behing victory over his original NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons.
So far this preseason, he has played in two games, completing 11 of 15 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. He probably will play the second half against the Redskins Saturday night in Milwaukee.
Johnson is still a firm believer in Bart Starr, even if many of the Packers' rabid fans are starting to grumble, particularly after last week's 10-7 loss to lowly Tampa Bay.
"You know, in addition to the Redskins asking me to come back - and George called me over on the winter and asked if I was still available - and I had a chance to go to three or four other teams. But they were all negative situations, going back to losing teams.
"I know the Packers lost a lot last year. But I've always had a lot of respect for Bart."
Allen still won't say when camp is ending, but all indications are that the Redskins ate their last supper - an outdoor cookout with grilled steaks and corn on the cob - at a local park tonight . . . Safety Jake Scott won't make the Green Bay trip because of his leg muscle problems, but Harold McLinton may see some action against the Packers. He returned to the workouts today after suffering a sprained left foot against the Chiefs . . . Eddie Brown remained hospitalized with a very sore throat, and probably will be left behind.