Bob Brunet was resting comfortably in a Dallas hospital yesterday with a contusion on his spinal cord and George Allen was fidgeting at Redskin Park, trying to patch his crippled football team for a game Sunday against the New York Giants.
Quarterback Billy Kilmer probably will be able to practice this week and play against the Giants, despite a bruised left shoulder he suffered in the Cowboy game.
Allen said that it was unlikely linebacker and defensive signal-caller Chris Hanburger would be sufficiently recovered from a sprained knee to play against the Giants. He was hurt against Tampa Bay Oct. 9.
But Brunet will be lost for the season, and fellow fullback John Riggins will be out of action for at least six to eight weeks with ligament damage in his right knee.
Earlier in the day, Allen had said Riggins would have to undergo surgery and would be out for the year. But last night, he reported on his television show that Riggins would be placed in a cast for three weeks and then will begin an extensive rehabilitation program.
If that is successful, Riggins may be available for action at the end of the regular season and for possible duty in the playoffs. Team sources said last night that Allen might put him on the injured reserve list, a move that would automatically end his season. Allen was not available for comment.
The Redskin coach and personnel scouts were making plans to import fresh legs for a Redskin backfield now reduced to Mike Thomas, Calvin Hill and rookie Clarence Harmon.
Allen said yesterday that Harmon, for now, would be the Redskins' starting fullback and that Hill would be asked to practice at both tailback and fullback this week. Hill has never played fullback in an NFL regular season or playoff game.
Allen said he would bring in at least one running back and possibly two to replace Brunet and Riggins on the active roster. Eddie Moss, a former Cardinal fullback cut by the Redskins late in the preseason, is a good bet to rejoin the team this week, although Allen said three other players will be given tryouts today at Redskin Park.
With kilmer hurting once again, Allen also may make a vote to bring back veteran quarterback Brian Dowling. Dowling also was cut late in the preseason.
Allen insisted yesterday "I'm not thinking that way, but it's a possibility." Allen can bring back any player he cut preciously through next Tuseday, also the final NFL trading deadline.
Mostly there was relief yesterday at Redskins Park with the news that Brunet had not suffered a cervical fracture, first feared by Baylor University physicians.
"He suffered a jamming type of injury in his neck," said Dr. Pat Evans, Cowboy team physcian who is treating Brunet at the Baylor Univeristy Medical Center.
"The spinal cord in that area may be jarred against the bony canal surrounding it, causing a bruise and swelling in the cord itself," Dr. Evans said. "It's a temporary condition. At first, it caused him to feel numbness and tingling sensations.
"But he's making excellent progress. He has full movement of all four extremities (arms adn legs), although there is still a tingling over his left should. We're running more tests and taking X rays and he will stay in the hospital at least another day.
"When he's ready to be discharged, he'll walk out of here. He'll have to wear a special brace. Now, no one can say if he'll play again. That would be up to the player and the coach."
For Brunet, an eight-year veteran with a long history of concussions and broken bones from hazardous duty on special teams, this latest injury probably will end his playing days.
Allen had other major concerns yesterday.
Left corntrback Pat Fischer's sore back will leave his status in the air for another week.
Return man Eddie Brown has some extremely sore ribs, guard Ron Saul a bruised knee and defensive tackle Bill Brundige and linebacker Pete Wysocki were limping on sprained ankles, the same injury that has kept defensive tackle Dave Butz on the sidelines each of the last two Sundays.
"When you have adversity, whether its the television business, the newspaper business or the coaching business, you find out the true character of everyone," Allen said at his weekly press conference.
"The true champions, the all-pros, always come back. We'll be back, I guarantee you that."
Allen spent a portion of the session grousing about the officiating, particularly on that controversial intentional grounding call that killed a crucial Redskin drive early in the fourth period.
"Dallas has been getting breaks the last couple ow weeks," he said. "Kilmer threw the ball and Harmon was right there. The official blew it. Stauback grounded a pass earlier in the game, theree wasn't anyone within 10 or 15 yards, but there was no call.
"All I ask from the officiating is that it be consistent. But officiating didn't beat us. I don't want to use that as an excuse, I hever have and never will."
Nor was Allen making excuses for his gamble to call on all-out blitz on the play that broke the game open for the Cowboys - a 59-yard touchdown pass from Staubach to Drew Pearson early in the fourth quarter.
"I told Kilmer on the sidelines that it was going to be a big play either way." Allen said, "We were hoping for a sack, a fumble, a turnover. We weren't moving the ball (on offense), we had to do something.
"You have to gamble . . . You've get to make some decisions that aren't completely sound, but you have to make something happen. It's like you're behind in a baseball game, you can't win bunting the ball. You've got to hit it over the fence."
Allen also publicly defended quarterback Joe Theismann, who came on in relief early in the second quarter after Kilmer suffered a burised shoulder. Although he did throw a one-yard touchdown pass to Harmon late in the half, Theismann was ineffective with three completions in 10 attempts for 19 yeards and one interception.
"I still have a lot of confidence in Joe," Allen said. "He's going to be a good quarterback. One game doesn't mean anything."
Allen heaped praise on Harmon, rookie free agent who averaged 4.7 yards in eight carries against the Cowboys.
"That was the brightest spot in the game." Allen said. "I was worried about him fumbling, but he clamped onto the ball, ran hard and broke tackles. You know we had 17 backs in camp in July and Harmon was as long a shot as anyone to make the team.
"It came down to him or Willie Spencer (now with the Giants). I liked Harmon's toughness, his dedication and his play on the special teams. Harmon will make a big play for us. He's a good blocker, and he's tough."
And at the moment, he is also healthy, the most important criteria.