John Riggins broke his self-imposed summer of silence yesterday to emphatically deny a published report that he was not happy with his role on the Redskins and that he would prefer to play elsewhere.
Riggins, who had declined to speak with Washington reporters all summer, was asked to respond to a report in yesterday's editions of the New York Daily News.
Riggins was quoted as telling a representative of one of the teams that bid for his services last year," I wish I'd signed with you. They expect too much from me here (in Washington)." The article also said Riggins "is telling friends he want out in Washington with its halfback offense."
"It's absolutely false, there's nothing to that at all," Riggins said angrily. "Any allegations about me wanting to go somewhere else or not being happy, well, that guy (News reporter Larry Fox) is just shooting in the dark, and I don't appreciate it.
"When I'm ready to go someplace, I'll tell everyone about it. I'm happy here. I don't know how I could have it any better anywhere else."
Riggins said he did tell several New York reporters after the Jet exhibition game that "some games I'm a fullback and some games I'm an extra guard."
"Well, it's true, but that doesn't mean I'm unhappy about it," Riggins said. "That's how the system is here. The halfback is supposed to get 100 yards and the fullback is supposed to get 50 and block.
"Now systems can change, but to tell you the truth, I don't really think I've proved I'm worthy of it (more carries), here. That's one of the reasons I haven't wanted to talk to you guys (the writers). I haven't done anything here to talk about."
Last season, Riggins gained 572 yards, although he averaged about 11 carries per game. The previous season, when he gained 1,005 yards for the Jets, he averaged 17 carries.
Riggins did not exactly set the world on fire this preseason, averaging 3.1 yards per carry, down from his 3.5 mark in the 1976 regular season.
"Look, the exhibition season doesn't mean a thing one way or the other," he said. "I don't take that into account. The season starts Sunday, and that's all I'm concerned with . . . I'm looking forward to it. These are the kind of games you want to play in. That's what you're here for.
"I'm ready to play football, and I'll be playing as hard as I can."
And perhaps carrying the football more often, as well. Quarterback Billy Kilmer had said he would like to give his big fullback the ball 20 times a game, along with 20 carries for the tailback and 20 passes.
Coach George Allen said yesterday he now plans to start Mike Thomas at tailback, but how long Thomas can last after missing an entire preseason of conditioning remains to be seen. That probably means Riggins will carry the ball often.
"I don't really enjoy blocking," Riggins said yesterday. "But it's a job you have to do. Blocking is fairly easy, and I could probably play another 10 years as a blocking back. But on the other hand, all running backs like to carry the ball because that's where the action is.
"But I do what I'm told. Blocking is one of the requirements, so I do it. I'm not unhappy about it. Sure I'd rather carry the ball more. I don't think there's a running back in the game who likes to block.
"The only reason I'd be unhappy in Washington is the feeling I keep getting that the fans are unhappy. If they are unhappy, then I'm unhappy, and maybe we can do something about that on Sunday."
Will he continue his no-interview policy?
"I really don't feel like working with the press," he said. "But . . . I really don't know what I'll do."
Allen, meanwhile, had other concerns after a two-hour closed practice. He said again that Gerard Williams most likely will start at left cornerback in place of Pat Fischer, although Pat is ready to play.
"He got a lot of work today, but not with the first unit. I'd rather bring him along slowly. He's ready, and he's anxious to hit somebody."
Allen, in his usual pregame buildup, described the Giants as "an underrated team" and added that "they'll probably have a chance to be a better team than last year." The New Yorkers, of course, couldn't get much worse after a 3-11 season in 1976 and a 1-5 mark in the preseason.
"Yes, I think we're ready," Allen said. "There's no more important game. It gets the pace for the whole year. I think we'll play an outstanding game all the way around."
Allen said Thomas was stiff and sore after three straight days of practice, but said he would start him "unless complications come up between now and game time." Allen said there was no change in Chris Hanburger's status, but that he still hopes the linebacker will be available to play next week in the home opener against the Falcons. Kilmer "threw well and had a good practice," Allen said.