Veteran safety Brig Owens was rehired by Redskin coach George Allen yesterday, two weeks after he had been cut from the team, and participated in a 2 1/4-hour workout at Redskin Park.
Allen's surprising move came exactly a week after he re-signed veteran tight end Jerry Smith. Owen's roommate and close friend who was cut the same day. To make room for Owens, 34 and a 12-year veteran, the Redskins waived linebacker Joe Harris.
The Washington Post has learned that several black members of the team felt strongly that Owens should be rehired for the same reason Smith was: his leadership. Those feelings were expressed to club officials, it was learned.
Some black players were hurt deeply last week when Allen brought back Smith but not Owens. Both were placed on waivers the Monday before the regular-season opener against the New York Giants.
Allen insisted yesterday, "Non one ever mentioned it to me, not one person. This was strictly my decision.
"We need quality people. When I released Brig and Jerry, I told them, 'I hope to bring you back.' It happened sooner than we all expected. We need him.
"We're still struggling. It's the same thing as last week (when Smith returned). We've got to get together, and I hope this will help."
Allen said Owens again would be the reserve safety, the fifth man in the nickel defense and play on special teams. "He'll contribute anything he can to help us win, that's the kind of guy he is and that's why we brought him back," Allen said.
Owens, who had declined to talk to reporters after being cut, said Allen telephoned him at 8:45 a.m. yesterday an gave him the news.
"I was going out to jog," Owens said. "I've been running three days a week, playing a little tennis, trying to just relax and spend some time with may family. He called up and asked me how I was doing. Then he said he wanted me to report this morning.
"I just said, 'Fantastic," and here I am."
Owens refused to criticize his being cut, saying only, "Jerry and I were both disappointed more than anything else. In a situation like that you try and pick up the pieces and keep going.
"But when he (Allen) released us, he said he would try and bring us both back, and he kept his word. And it's really good to be back."
"Welcome back to the family," Charley Taylor said to his old friend after yesterday's practice. Most players agreed that Owen's return would lift team morale.
"When it happened, we all felt bad," said middle linebacker Harold McLinton. "It's something that's part of the game. But it's good to see him. No, it's great to see him back."
Added Smith, "He's a leader and he'll add stability to this team. Everybody is close again. It's a great feeling."
Another old familiar face returned to practice yesterday after a four-week absence. Linebacker Chris Hanburger, who has been out of action since an emergency appendectomy Sept. 1, spent most of the day jogging and doing light stretching exercises.
Late in practice, however, he moved in at right linebacker and took part in a half-dozen plays during a 11-on-11 drill. When Mike Curtis relieved him, teammates on the sideline gave Hanburger a round of applause.
"He's weak," Allen said. "He's got to be questionable (for the game against the Cardinals Sunday). But he'll split practice time with Curtis and we'll see how it goes."
Hanburger said he was able to get through the drills without difficulty. But I won't be able to tell anything until see how I feel in the morning," he said. "I'm sure I'll be stiff and sore. We'll just wait and see."
Stiff and sore was the phrase Allen used to describe the condition of cornerback Pat Fischer, who did not work out.
"We just gave him a day off," Allen said. "He was in there for 82 days against Atlanta Sunday and that's a lot for anyone. Considering that was his first game, well, we just wanted to let him rest."
Fischer is expected back at practice Wednesday, but Harris, the man Allen cut to make room for Owens, had no idea what his future would be.
"Sure I'm upset. Wouldn't you be?" he said. "Nah, they haven't really told me anything except that I'm on waivers. I've just got to wait and see what happens. I'll know more tomorrow."
Harris, who played in the Canadian League for two seasons before joining the Redskins as a free agent this year, became expendable when Hanburger returned.