The Washington Redskins spend approximately $60,000 a year to keep their players clothed, shod and padded for the NFL wars, to purchase such diverse items of football equipment as disposable diapers, Glad sandwich bags and, for worried line-men, jars of Vaseline.
This week, equipment manager Tommy McVean went shopping for extra items as the Redskins prepared for the portion of their schedule concocted by Jack Frost and Old Man Winter.
Baby, it's gonna' be cold outside when the Redskins take on the Bills Sunday in Barry Buffalo. A spokesman for the National Weather Service is predicting temperatures near 35, with wind gusts up to 20 miles an hour, possible snow flurries and a wind-chill factor that could dip into the teens by the 1 p.m. kickoff.
McVean was on a mission yesterday to secure a few more pairs of thermal underwear and one oversized sub-zero rightfooted thermal boot to keep Mark Moseley's kicking toes at room temperature. He also picked up several cans of Sterno, the better to keep the stickem used by receivers and running backs for better grips hot, gooey and sticky.
"I've got just about everything else," said McVen, who made a long-distance call this week to make sure two portable heat blowers will be waiting on the sideline for use by chilly Redskins Sunday afternoon.
None of the Redskins is about to take the drastic measures used by the New York Jets two weeks ago, when many players wore panty hose under their uniforms to keep the heat trapped close to their skins. But Washington players should be snug and warm in Buffalo, the following week in St. Louis and then back home in Washington for the season finale Dec. 18.
Many players will wrap their feet with those Glad sandwich bags between layers of socks, and just about everyone will wear thermal underwear.
McVean also will break out special heavy winter knit jerseys with pouches in the front for any player who needs to keep his hands warm for contact with the football.
He will have a heavy cape for each player, as well as those huge elbo-length oversized thermal mittens that seem better suited to the cast of Star Wars than a football team.
McVean also will borrow a machine normally used by the trainers to make instant heat'ng pads. "They can sit on 'em, tuck 'em in their pants or just wrap 'em around their hands," McVena said. The receivers, quarter-backs and centers use them mostly. If their hands go numb, they're in trouble.
And if the snow sticks, the players can switch from their Astro-Turf shoes to regular cleats for better traction. Each man will pack at least three pairs of shoes, according to McVean.
The Redskins' medical men, meanwhile, are mostly concerned about the effect of the cold on tight, strained muscles.
"They're got to be sure they're loose and warmed up," said trainer Bubba Tyer "If it's extremely cold, that's our biggest problem. We've never had a frostbite case. That's something you don't even like to think about."
But Redskin receivers are very much aware of frozen fingers, and starters Danny Buggs, Frank Grant and Jean Fugett will wear golf gloves on both hands during the game.
Said Fugett, "I'm a little uncomfortable with them because it's not your own skin. But they help you hold onto the ball. You just get them a little damp and it's like having glue on your hands."
"I started using them two years ago," said Grant "You know how it feels when your hands get cold. My hands go numb, they get dry and they get slippery. You need that touch, because the ball is cold and the threads can tear up your hands on a cold day. The gloves are thin enough not to cause you any problems holding onto the ball. It's like a little extra layer of skin, and it helps."
Some players are so well padded they don't need much else to keep warm. Harold McLinton, according to McVean, "wears shin guards, basketball knee pads, regular knee pads over them, three different kinds of thigh pads, girdle pads, hand pads, forearm pads, elbow pads, tricap pads, a neck collar and an inner-tube air pad under his shoulder pads as a shock guard.
"Oh yeah, wrist bands, too."
Pat Fischer, on the other hand, was probably the least protected player. Enter the diposable diapers. Fischer felt regular knee pads were too bulky, so he wore Pampers around his knees instead. What did he do for the cold?
"We used to send a kid into the stands tobuy him hot coffee during the game," McVcan said.
The Redskins do not follow the macho example of Minnesota coach Bud Grant, who forbids his players to wear gloves during games or practices, and has never allowed one of the those dastardly heaters on his sideline.
"We had nothing," recalled safety Windlan Hall, who spent 1 1/2 seasons liging in the Ice Age with Grant befoer the Redskins claimed him on waivers earlier this season.
"We always wore a lot of sweats in practice, but you wouldn't do that during a game, it was too bulky. Grant's theory was that the cold was all a state of mind. You practiced in it every day, and you got used to it. You just conditioned yourself.
"The coldest I remember playing in was against the Rama in the playoffs was against the Rams in the playoffs last year. We practiced in zero dechill factor was 20 below.
"I won't tell you we weren't cold, but I remember looking over at their sideline, and the Rams looked like they were going to freeze to death. There's no question the cold helped us."
Does he still take the same "think-warm" approach under George Allen Hill was asked.
"Actually," he said with a sly smile, "I'm going to wear gloves in Buffalo."
Allen was complaining about a poor practice yesterday, a 2 1/2 hour closed session which several starters missed because of injuries . . . Center Len Hauss (broken rib) . . safety Jake Scott (broken ribs), linebacker Chris Hanburger (sore knee) defensive tackle Bill Brundige (sore calf) did not participate, Allen said . . . Only Hanburger is expected to miss Sunday's game aginst the Bills, however . . . Allen decided to skip the regular Saturday morning practice, opting for team meetings instead . . . "It's better to keep them off their legs and freshen their minds," he said. "The mental part is more important than anything else right now" . . . Art McNally, the NFL's supervisor of officials, said he could not comment on the fake punt snap of Cowboy center D.D. Lewis last week because "it's a judgment call."