Calvin Hill, a premier running back for the Dallas Cowboys who was used little the last two years by the Washington Redskins, announced his retirement yesterday, saying he didn't want his negative attitude to hurt the team.
Unlike recent Redskin retirements, which have been forced by old age and injury, Hill's is voluntary. He is 31 healthy and says he loves to play.
And that, perservely, may be why he quit. A source close to Hill said he is disappointed that the Redskins apparently plan to use him the same way they have the last two years - as a backup runner.
"They didn't offer him a (new) contract," the source said. "So that shows what they think of him."
Hill is on the option year of his contract. Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard was unavailable for comment, but Coach Jack Pardee said the contract "wasn't bothering Calvin."
Pardee hopes Hill will change his mind about quitting.
"It surprised me," Pardee said after Hill revealed his decision when they met just before yesterday's workout. "And I don't know if it's a real, final decision or not . . . I encouraged him to keep an open mind (about returning to the team) . . . He's a valuable player, both on and off the field."
Before leaving training camp to drive home to Reston, Va., Hill gave reporters no indication he would return to the Redskins. He did, however, leave open the possibility of playing for another team, saying, "Anything could happen. I might drop dead right now . . . I don't know what my options are."
Hill had spoken of retirement last season. The nine-year veteran rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the Cowboys in both the 1972 and '73 seasons, carrying the ball more than 500 times. For the Redskins, he gained 553 yards on 148 carries in two years.
But when the Redskins changed coaches, firing George Allen and hiring Pardee, Hill dropped the retirement talk. "He hoped it would be different," the source said. "But he still wasn't playing."
"My immediate concern is that Calvin Hill not be a negative force," Hill said yesterday. "There were times the last couple years when I felt like crying out. 'What's happening to Calvin Hill, the person?' . . . Sometimes, though, you have to bite the bullet."
Hill did not criticize Pardee, save indirectly when he said, "To be candid, I am a player. I enjoy playing. I may be in the minority, but I still feel like I can be a heckuva player."
Then why quit?
Hill would not answer the question clearly, saying instead that he didn't feel he had the 100 percent commitment" necessary to be a positive member of the team.
"At times I've felt like a Ping-Pong ball the last couple years and I didn't want to be in the situation," he said. "This is a positive situation here and it probably doesn't include me . . . When you have a problem of commitment, you should remove yourself from the situation."
Speculation recently touched on Hill as a possible replacement for Lydell Mitchell with the Baltimore Colts. Mitchell is arguing contract with the Colts and has not reported to camp. Asked if he had requested to be traded, Hill said, "You should probably talk to other people about that."
Pardee said Hill has not asked to be traded, nor have the Redskins tried to trade him.
"He's important to us," said the coach, who pointed out that the Redskins have only four other backs with NFL experience.
Hill carried only four times, gaining four yards, in the Redskins' exhibition opener Saturday. His relief role seemed identical to that created for him by Allen. It was a far cry from his golden days with the Cowboys. For six seasons, the 6-foot-4, 227-pound runner from Yale was a shining star.
With 942 yards in 1969, he was the NFL's Rookie of the Year, beating out the Redskins' Larry Brown. He averaged 835 yards rushing his six seasons with Dallas and scored 45 touchdowns. Seventeen times he gained more than 100 yards in a game.
With the creation of the World Football League. Hill left the Cowboys to run in Hawaii. He carried only 49 times there before hurting a knee. The league died after one season and Hill signed with the Redskins.
Only occasionally was he the Calvin Hill whose size, strength and grace made him so successful at Dallas. One of those occasions came in the final game of last season, a game the Redskins had to win to keep alive hopes of reaching the playoffs.
Hill gained 89 yards against the Los Angeles Rams, helping the Redskins win, 17-14.
It was Hill's first start of the season.
It's very difficult for me to retire," Hill said. "I have a lot of friends on the Redskins and I still enjoy the game."
As a rainstorm pelted the windows not far from him, Hill said, "I'd go back to Reston and finish sohis on a sunny day. I'll go back to Reston and finish some books I'm reading."
Billy Kilmer's sore arm and knee are better, Pardee said. Because the Redskins worked out in the rain, Kilmer didn't throw. "With the ball heavy, it would be the worst thing to do," Pardee said. "The coach expects more improvement in Kilmer this week and, "if he's okay he'll play some Friday" when the Redskins play Green Bay at RFK . . . Jeff Williams, the offensive tackle acquired from Los Angeles in the Eddie Brown trade, arrived at camp yesterday . . . Though there'd been talk of moving training camp closer to D.C., publicity man Charlie Taylor says the Redskins will stay in Charlisle at least another year.