Calvin Hill says "This is probably my last year playing football." He also insists he has no bitterness or complaints about the manner in which he is being used by the Redskin coaching staff this season.
And he seemed almost relieved yesterday that fullback Jim Kiick had been added to the roster because, "I'll be able to concentrate mostly on tailback, and that's what I do best."
Nevertheless, coach George Allen indicated that if rookie fullback Clarence Harmon has difficulty with his sprained ankle Sunday against Buffalo, it would be Hill, and not Kiick, who would play in his place.
Hill says he is willing to go along with whatever Allen has in mind for him, even if many fans, several of his teammates and even a front-office type or two have been wondering out loud lately why this even-tempered, classy running back has not been asked to carry the ball more frequently.
Hill prefers not to rock the Redskins' slowly sinking ship.
"In Dallas, the running game was built around me, and here it's geared around Mile (Thomas)," Hill said. "I know that, and I accept that. He's going to be The Man on offense.
"I like to run more from the I-formation, the offtackle, influence plays where I can roll and pick my hole. Mike is more of a quick-hitter in plays from the brown formation (where the fullback is lined up behind the center).
"So since I'm not the person around whom things are built, I've had to adapt myself to the situation. I still feel good about my own ability. Sure there are times you get down - just looking out the window at this fog and mist is depressing enough.
"But I try to practice hard, and I try and beat guys in the drills. It affirms your belief in your own ability. So I think I can still play, but I also don't think my playing last week against the Cowboys would have made that much difference. There were too many things going wrong."
On his first carry against his former Cowboy teammates, Hill ran a tailback sweep around left end that carried 34 yards, the longest Redskin scrimmage run of the season. He is averaging 4.5 yards a carry, almost a full yard more than starting tailback Thomas. Hill has carried he ball only 32 times this season. Thomas has 184 rushing attempts and a 3.6-yard average.
When you ask offensive coordinator Charlie Waller why HIll has carried the ball so infrequently, he insists, "He has been playing a lot. He's plaing two spots and he's had to learn the fullback position. He's one big plus we have and we are going to use him more." Waller said this before Hill's situation was further complicated by the Redskins' signing of Jim Kiick.
George Allen was a bundle of obfuscation when asked the same question put to Waller. "He's been in there quite a bit," Allen said. "It's been in passing situations. There's no particular reason (why Hill has so few carries). Harmon (rookie fullback Clarence Harmon) is doing a good job, and I'm inclined not to take Mike (Thomas) out of the starting lineup. We hope to use Calvin more and more."
That may happen Sunday in Buffalo because Harmon is still limping on a sprained ankle that has plagued him most of the season. And if Hill does start or see much action, he will have a chance for a big day because Buffalo is allowing opponents an average of 180 yards on the ground per game.
Hill believes Harmon and Thomas are playing well this season, although the Redskin rushing attack ranks 11te in the NFC and misses the big-back blocking and running once provided by injured John Riggins.
He also says, "I'm still not all that comfortable at fullback. I'm doing most of the things, and the running feels all right. But the blocking is the opposite of what I've been doing all my life, and the feel just isn't there. There are certain pass patterns I get there too fast or too late, things like that.
"When I do play, I try to make the most out of it and enjoy it. I especially enjoyed the Dallas game. Sure it's been frustrating in that we've lost five games and I haven't played much.
"I don't know if it's losing, or not playing, but there are times when you really have to dig deep to come up positive. You wake up and its cold and its misty and you're not winning."
So Hill is talking once again about leaving the game after nine seasons as a professional. He says he does not have an option year on his original two-year contract that runs out after this season. If that is the case - and the Redskins say it is not - he could become free agent again Feb. 1.
But at Hill's age (30) and salary (in the $125,000-year range), it is unlikely that many NFL teams would be willing to compensate the Redskins with at least a No. 1 draft choice to sign him, at least not at those prices.
So Hill talks a lot about finding a place to live in a warmer climate, where he would like to become a school teacher and live "the simple life." He is thinking about taking a trip around the world after the season to visit far-flung friends from his days at Yale, "and just do some serious reflecting."
"I've been lucky," he said. "I've played nine years, and that's four or five more than the average guy plays. I've had all the highs and lows. I had hoped to go out on a winning team. There's no better place to announce your retirement than after the Super Bowl. Right now, that's a fading possibility, although it still could happen.
"I'd just like to go somewhere and do something I really enjoy and fade away to anonymity, which I guess you could say is exactly what I've done the last three years."