You will pardon Tony Green if he does not particularly feel like smiling, eating or sleeping much these days in the Redskin training camp. "Actually," he says, "I'm kind of depressed."
Could this be the same bouncing, bubbling running back who gushed on draft day that he was going to give Mike Thomas a run for his money after the Redskins made him their first choice (in the sixth round) out of Florida?
Could this be the same tiny tailback General Manager Bobby Beathard described that day as an "eye-catcher, a game breaker, a guy who brings the crowd to its feet"?
Something not so funny happened to Green on his way to stardom. He pulled a hamstring muscle in his right leg early in the first week of rookies camp, an injury that forced him to miss almost two weeks of practice. And now although he is back in workouts, no one is saying nice things about him.
"It's been rough, more mentally than physically," Green said yesterday. "You're always wondering how the layoffs has hurt your chances of making the team. Everywhere I look, I see good running backs, and I don't know how many they'll keep. You always wonder when is that man with the axe gonna come knocking at your door."
Green is listed as the No. 4 tailback on the Redskin depth chart, behind Thomas, Calvin Hill and the man he will probably have to beat out to make the team, Tommy Reamon. "When they give me my chance," he says, "I know I better produce."
Green is well aware that some people are not entirely pleased with his progress. When he was first injured, Beathard said he was not surprised because Green had come into camp out of shape.
"Sure that bothered me," Green said, "but if that's the way he felt, what could I do? That really got me, though, because at Redskin Park during the offseason, I was old by once coach that they wanted me to pick up 10 pounds by the time camp opened.
"When I came in, I felt I was in good shape. I wasn't sucking wind or tired after the practices. I weighed 193 the first day, and now I'm down to 186.I played at Florida about 185, so I'm right where I want to be right now.
"Sure I get the feeling they're down on me.Maybe they should be. I still haven't proven myself, that's true. But all I can do is work hard in every practice and try to get better. With God's help, I'll make it. If He wants me to do something else with my life, then so be it."
Green came to the Redskins with rather impressive credentials. He was Florida's all-time leading rusher, averaging 5.8 yards a carry as a junior and 6.3 yards in his senior season, with elusive moves and breakaway speed.
But he also had a reputation as a young man never enthusiastic about practice, one of the major reasons Beathard cited for Green's being available when the Redskins picked him in the draft.
"I'm not going to lie and tell you I like practice," Green said yesterday. "But I know I have to do it to get better, and you'll see me work hard out there every day. If I don't I know I'll be gone, and that's the last thing I want.
"It's so different from college. You really didn't have to worry about making the team, you just had to worry about being a starter. There was a lot less pressure. Here, you can feel it on you every day, and you've got to learn how to deal with it.
"It's a scary game because you never know when your last day or his first game-action is going to be.
In Green's case, he is not sure when he first game-action is going to be.He missed both rookie scrimmages against the Colts, but decided to come back to practices on Monday even though the pull has not completely healed.
"I couldn't just sit in the training room, I had to do something," he said. "Maybe it would have been better to let it rest four or five weeks, but I know I can't afford to wait that long. I wasn't a first-round draft choice, you know."
Green probably will play a bit at tailback against the Vikings Saturday night in the preseason opener and say be asked to return a punt or a kickoff.He knows he must make a vivid impression. In a hurry.
"I can't afford to blow an assignment or miss a block," he said. "The running will take care of itself. I'm not worried about that. I have to do everything perfect. And if they want me to go down and make tackles on the kickoff team. I'll do that, too. "I just hope it's not too late."
Cornerback Joe Lavender and safety Jake Scott were excused from practice yesterday with mild bronchial infections not considered serious . . . Pardee said both should be available against the Vikings . . . Retired lineman Ray Schoenke made his annaul visit to camp and said tickets for the Redskin Alumni Association's Welcome Home Luncheon on Aug. 21 at the Sheraton Park Hotel are available. Tickets priced at $15 can be obtained by calling Andy Davis at 301 - 656-9100 . . . Roosevelt Grier will be presented the George Preston Marshall award at the luncheon for outstanding community service work . . . Spencer Kopf, a Dallas attorney representing wide receiver Danny Buggs, was in Carlisle yesteday working on his client's contract. General Manager Bobby Beathard said good progress was made and both sides are close to an agreement.