The Washington Redskins averted another contract hassle yesterday when safety Eddie Brown said he decided not to join Billy Kilmer in boycotting the team's three-day camp starting today.
Like Kilmer, Brown is on the option year of a two-year contract he signed in 1976. Unlike Kilmer, who earns $210,000 a year, Brown played for $12,000 in 1977, and he has been seeking a raise commensurate with his status as an all-pro return man.
When Brown came to Redskin Park to take a physical yesterday, he said he was seriously considering not showing up for the three da ys of practices and meetings.That is the approach Kilmer is using in seeking a multi-year contract.
But after meeting late yesterday afternoon with General Manager Bobby Beathard, Brown said he had decided to show up, although he admitted the Redskins' latest offer was still far from satisfactory.
"I'll come to camp because I really di think it's important to keep everybody together." Brownn said. "But I also back Billy 10 percent in his situation. Each one of us has to make his own decision.
"At this point the difference is strictly money. For the last two years, I was the most underpaid guy in the league. No, I didn't complain last year. I was under contract, I had signed it and I gived up to it.
"This whole thing has been upsetting to me. I can't concentrate on a lot of things because of it. It's something that I'd like to get resolved soon, and it has to be something my wife and I can live with."
Brown does not have an agent, and has been negotiating himself with Beathard.
Brown knows it would be foolish to threaten to play out his option, if only because he would be paid only 10 per cent more than he earned in 1977, when he set an NFL record for number of punt returns (57) and finished third in the NFC in kickoff returns.
The previous season, when he earned $28,000, Brown led the NFL in punt-return yardage. Both seasons he played in the Redskin' nickel defense, and saved a victory over the St. Louis Cardinals with a spectacular, diving end-zone interception in the final seconds.
While most of his veteran teammates showed up yesterday to be probed and poked in a thorough physical examination, Kilmer did not put in an appearance.
Beathard said he would attempt to contact Kilmer last night, but added, "We're not going to be able to resolve it before tomorrow, anyway."
"I don't understand this whole thing, anyway. He's under contract for the coming year. He's been a big part of the Redskins and we're counting on him. Why everything had to be done by today is still a mystery to me."
Bobby Mitchell, the executive assistant to team President Edward Bennett Williams, was not so polite.
"I think for Billy's sake he should be here," Mitchell said. "We have a new coach, a new system, and Billy's supposed to be the leader of this team. This is the time he should be here proving all the things he's been saying. This is Kilmer's team, and he knows it.
"Ed Williams wants Kilmer here. I know Billy has it in the back of his mind that Ed doesn't want him, but that's not true. All this business about him saying he should be the starter, well, his salary alone tells you that he's the quarterback.
"What he said is like John Riggins saying to me he's not the fullback. That's ridiculous. When you get into a certain category as a veteran, you don't have to ask, 'Am I the guy?' Certain things tell you that. Jack Pardee doesn't have to tell him that.
"Billy should just come in here, assume his leadership and take off. Not coming will put him behind the other guy. It's going to hurt Billy, and it's going to hurt the team."
In other developments yesterday, veteran wide receiver Charley Taylor said he was close to signing a new contract with the team, probably for one year. Taylor met yesterday with Beathard and Pardee "and we told Charley he's going to have to get real involved in a weight and running program between now and camp," Beathard said.
The Redskins have signed free-agent wide receiver Ed Marshall to a contract. Marshall was the fellow who helped the New York Giants defeat the Redskins twice last fall with important pass receptions.
The Redskins also announced they have formally signed linebacker Mike Curtis to a two-year contract, and linebacker Pete Wysocki has agreed to terms on a three-year pact, but says he will not participate in drills during the minicamp unless he has actually signed, as a precaution against injury.