Jerry Smith returned to a grim Washington Redskin practice yesterday for the first time since he had been cut seven days ago by George Allen.
Allen said yesterday he decided to rehire Smith, a 13-year veteran tightend, Sunday night on the plane coming back from the Redskins' 20-17 loss to the New York Giants. Third-year tightend Bill Larson was cut Monday to make room for Smith on the roster.
Smith, insisting "I don't want to make a big deal over this," spent most of a postpractice interview session putting in plugs for the return of his friend, Brig Owens, the veteran safety who was cut with Smith the same day last week.
"I hope Brig has the chance to come back, too," he said. "We all know how much Brig means to this team."
But Allen grew testy when asked if Owens would follow Smith back onto the squad. "We just haven't been moving the ball on offense," he snapped. "So I can't answer that."
According to several of his friends on and off the team, Smith was hurt, disappointed and bitter over his cut last week. But he insisted yesterday that there was no hesitation at all to rejoin the Redskins when Allen called.
"When something like that being cut happens, there's really no way you can prepare yourself," he said. "Brig and I were both disappointed. But it's our job to play, we don't make those kinds of decisions. It's just part of the game you accept.
"I'm back, and I'm glad to be back, and that's essentially it."
Allen said he brought Smith back for his leadership qualities, as well as his ability to come up with the big play. But Smith insisted, "I don't see myself as a leader. I'm a working man trying to earn the respect of my team-mates."
A number of redskins said they were delighted, and rather surprised, to see Smith come back.
Said quarterback Billy Kilmer, "I'm glad to see him back. It just didn't seem like a redskin team without Jerry Smith, and he's going to help us.
"In my book, Jerry is an all-pro. He had a great training camp, he caught everything in practice. But he only had one shot to play in the preseason games. He's just the type of guy you need to give you stability.
"And if something happened to Jean (Fugett, the starting tight end) we wouldn't miss anything."
Smith returned to practice and worked as Fugett's backup yesterday. The man he replaced on the active roster. Bill Larsen, was packing his bags and preparing to leave the area, although Allen said, "Who knows, he could still be back here."
The very fact Larson made the 45-man squad last week, Allen insisted, would help him get a job elsewhere in pro football. "When George Allen picks you for his team, that's an endorsement for him," Allen said.
"I wish Bill all the luck in the world," added Smith. "These are things Bill can't control or I can't control."
There was also no way to control another problem that popped up yesterday. Offensive tackle Terry Hermeling spent last night in Arlington Hospital suffering from the flu.
Hermeling, who had 104-degree fever Tuesday morning, was already limping on a sore right knee suffered against the Giants. Trainer Bubba Tyer said it would probably be just as well for Hermeling to stay off his feet for a day anyway.
Defensive end Ron McDole, didn't miss practice despite a deslocated right elbow, "Oh, it's little sore," he said. "But I ought to be able to play."
Karl Lorch spent most of the two-hour practice working on McDole's left end position but Allen refused to rule out McDole playing Sunday. "He's tough, he could make it," Allen said.
Allen also said he would wait until later in the week before making a decision on starting Pat Fischer. The cornerback spent a good bit of time working with the first unit, however, and if his back does not flare up, he will probably get his first start Sunday against the Falcons.
The Redskins went through a nononsense workout, with little of the usual light banter that accompanies most sessions. Of course the Redskins under Allen have never been 0-1.
"That's the way it should have been," Allen said of the squad's mood. "If it was the other way, I'd be worried. It shows they're remorseful. The big thing now is to forget it and get ready for the Falcons."