Billy Kilmer continues to get heavy work in Redskin practice, but coach George Allen yesterday dispelled as "nothing to it" reports that Kilmer would open at quarterback instead of Joe Theismann against the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday at RFK.
Team sources said Theismann opened the offensive portion of a two hour closed practive and worked a bit more than Kilmer, benched four games ago.
This was interpreted to mean that Allen will start Theismann, but wants Kilmer ready in relief if Theismann does not produce in this must-win game.
For the first time, Allen admitted that Kilmer's poor physical condition a month ago played a major part in his decision to bench his feisty offensive leader and go with the inexperienced Theismann.
"He (Kilmer) had taken a lot of punishment, and he couldn't continue to go like he was," Allen said. "He probably wouldn't be with us today, you see. Now we have two helathy quarterbacks ready and rarin' to go."
The Redskins have won three of the past four games despite scoring only five touchdowns. They take a 6-4 record and a healthy Kilmer into the toughest part of their schedule and a stretch-drive attempt to make the playoffs.
The final four opponents include the three teams with the best won-lost records in the NFC - Dallas, St. Louis and Los Angeles. The other game is against Buffalo.
The Redskins have to win all four games to assure themselves a playoff berth. Otherwise, they will be depending on other contenders losing.
The first practice for the Cowboys had Allen in his usual feisty Dallas Week mood. But Theismann was treading softly after postgame comments Monday night that appeared to be criticizing the coaching staff.
The Dallas injury report yesterday included 18 players on the 45-man roster; 17 were listed as probable, and Allen could not resist.
"Dallas' injury report is as long as the New York telephone directory," the coach said. "Dallas always publishes the biggest injury list in the league. Somebody gets a haircut and, if it's too short, they put that on the injury list. You don't take their injury list with a grain of salt; you take it with eight grains of salt."
Allen seemed eager to create controversy with his arch-rival. But no one wanted to fuel a possible intra Redskins controversy concerning Theismann's comments to Glenn Brenner of WTOP-TV-9 following the 10-9 victory over Green Bay.
To some observers, Theismann appeared to be second-guessing the Redskins game plan of run-first pass-second. The Redskins ran the ball 38 plays, the most since Theismann became the starter.
The following part of the interview was telecast by WTOP Tuesday night:
"Finally, I just went to coach at the start of the fourth quarter and said I've got to get points on the board, and I've got to put points on the board like I know how. Now, you know we established that we moved the football. We moved the football, but we weren't doing anything. So I put the ball up in the air a little bit more, and it worked out well for us."
Yesterday, Theismann said: "I have no comment on that. It was edited; it was taken out of context. Absolutely, there was no way I was criticizing the coaches . . . We have the best coaching staff in the NFL."
"I don't remember that," Allen said. "No, we were just talking about what to do on the next play. He may have felt that way. But there's nothing concrete in that . . . He had pretty much free rein. There were certain things we sent in.Our game plan was to run first and throw second."
Theismann also refused to evaluate his progress through the four games he has started this season. Sources have indicated that the coaching staff is not completely happy with Theismann's play selection. But the same sources say the coaches blame it mainly on the quarterback's inexperience.
"Until the season's over, there's not sense doing a self-analysis," Theismann said. "There's a lot of things I have to do and there's a lot of things I have to improve on. We have a very important football game coming up, and that's the only thing on my mind."
Asked about Theismann's progress, Allen said:
"He's reading coverages better, and he's throwing to the backs better. And he's going to have a good game. One of these days he's going to have a big game. But everybody else has to come through. He can't do it alone."
In their official injury report to the NFL, the Redskins listed linebacker Chris Hanburger (sprained left knee), safety Jake Scott (broken ribs) and defensive tackle Bill Brundige (sprained left foot) as doubtful for the Cowboy game . . . Of the three, only Hanburger was able to make it onto the practice field, but the injury he aggravated against the Packers left him walking stiff legged . . . Guard Ron Saul also did not go onto the field. He is recovering from the flu and a fever that sidelined him midway through the Packer game. But he is listed as probable . . . Fullback John Riggins will receive an evaluation today from team physician Stanford Lavine. He started rehabilitation from a torn cartilage a week ago and may be able to start lifting weights on the knee soon. The Redskins hope to have him back for the Dec. 10 game against St. Louis.