The Washington Redskins had the final major tuneup yesterday of what offensive guard Terry Hermeling described as "the best week of practice we've had all year," and coach George Allen, not surprisingly, took great pains to praise his struggling offense.
"Billy Kilmer's had an excellent week," Allen said when the two-hour closed session was over. "And (Clarence) Harmon is running hard and with authority. He's tough, he's a good blocker . . . and I think he can do a good job.
Six weeks ago, the Redskins attacked the New York Giants, their opponent here Sunday, with an offense that featured 25 carries or catches by fullbacks John Riggins and Bob Brunet out of 66 plays.
Now, with Brunet lost for the season with a neck injury and Riggins' knee not expected to be healed until late November, the Redskins have replaced their big battering rams with a rookie popgun who barely tips the scales at 195 pounds.
Nevertheless, the Redskins insist that Harmon can and will do the job against New York, although it seems likely the ball-carrying burden will fall on the tailbacks.
"If the situation dictates that the fullback carry the ball, we're not going to lay off giving it to Harmon," offensive coordinator Charley Waller said. "John Riggins had a good day running against them, and we think Clarence can, too."
"Sure he's going to make mistakes, he's a rookie. All we really have to go on is the preseason. but back then he ran for a good average (4.7 yards in 45 carries), he can block, and he's very intense. We have confidence in him. And our game plan is not based on who's running the football.We think he can do it."
Many players agreed.
"It makes no difference at all who's running, we've still got to do our job," said Hermeling, the right guard. "We don't care who's back there. I'm more concerned about the guy who's in front of me.
"I think the kid is a hell of a back. He came into the Dallas game and did a super job for us, and I think he'll do a super job for us Sunday."
Veteran wide receiver Charley Taylor is Harmon's Redskin locker-room neighor and yesterday he was teasing the shy, quiet rookie about all the attention he had been getting this week.
Later on, Taylor turned serious.
"Hey, this kid is the ideal rookie," he said."He's trying to learn all the time, he listens to the older guys and he doesn't say much. The veteran guys admire a kid like that. He just goes out there and works his butt off.
"I think he also knows he's got a tremendous opportunity here. He's just a young kid, right out of college, and he's going to be our starting fullback. He looks great in practice and he runs hard. I think we've all been impressed."
The Redskins also insist there is no depression at Redskin Park, despite the loss of Brunet and Riggins and the continuing physical problems of linebacker Chris Hanburger and cornerback Pat Fischer.
Again, Fischer and Hanburger missed the workout. Hanburger jogged on his sore knee. Fischer didn't make it out to the practice field. Neither is expected to play against the Giants.
"That's all part of the game," said Taylor. "I think the attitude is good, real good. The practices have been intense, and that's a good sign for us. Everybody realizes what's at stake, and it shows."
An NFL spokesman said Allen has not filed a formal complaint of protest about alleged harassment by the Dallas Cowboys concerning Mark Moseley's kicking shoe. Joe Heffernan, the NFL's director of pyblic relations, also indicated that another team, not the Cowboys, had asked that the league watch Moseley. "An NFL representative asked George (Allen) what the shoe was made of," Heffernan said, adding that "nothing has been said to the Redskins about it (Moseley's shoe) . . . Kick returner Eddie Brown said his sore ribs are greatly improved and that he will wear a special shield Sunday to prevent further injury . . . Defensive tackle Dave Butz left practice early complaining that his back was still bothering him.