Bill Brundige hobbles on crutches these days, wondering if the surgery he endured last month will ever ease the pain in his left foot and whether he will ever again play football.
Brundige will not perform for the Redskins in 1978, mostly because he made a decision late last season to take pain-killing injections that would allow him to play in the stretch drive for the playoffs.
He emphasized that he was fully informed of all the risks, that he made the choice and that he probably would do it again under the same circumstances.
"If I had known that we wouldn't have made the playoffs," he says now, "of course I wouldn't have done it. But who could tell me that then? I did it because I felt I had to do it. They needed me. I felt an obligation to the guys I was playing with."Was it worth it? Right now, I'd have to say hell no. But I didn't know that then. If I had put my foot in a cast when it first got hurt, I probably wouldn't have needed the operation. But it was my choice. And every athlete at one time or another has to make a choice. It's part of the game."
Again, in the wake of the bizarre Bill Walton case, serious questions about the propriety of using pain-killing drugs that allow athletes at almost every level to play hurt are being raised.
Two weeks ago, Walton demanded that his former team, the Portland Trail Blazers, trade him to an NBA club of his choosing. Since, it has been reported that Walton believes he was given a pain-killing injection to perform in a playoff game, even though he had a broken bone in his left foot.
According to a report in Sports Illustrated, "Walton also charged the team with the misuse of the pain modifying drugs Xylocaine and Marcaine, and the anti-inflammatory drugs Butazolidin and Decadron."
The Trail Blazers have denied any misuse or misrepresentation regarding the pain-killing drugs given to Walton. Among many of his professional peers, Walton seems to be getting little sympathy.
The sports medicine establishment insists that abuses in the use of numbing agents to keep an athlete on the field are the exception rather than the rule.
"I treated ball players like my own kids and wouldn't give my own kids a pain-killer," insists Dr. Joseph Godfrey, the Buffalo Bills team physician.
"I would say the usage of pain killers professional athletes is going down," adds Dr. James Garrick of Phoenix, Ariz, a member of the NFL's Joint Committee on Safety and Welfare. "But it hard to say because use of pain killers is not the kind of thing players openly talk about."
"Everyone uses them," said Stanford Lavine, team physician for the Redskins, Bulets and University of Maryland. "But it's more a question of abuse than anything else. And I don't think we are abusing them."
"There are certain injuries that people can play with without aggravating them, and if you are going to play, you might as well play comfortably. If a guy's got a sprain or a ligament where playing on it won't make it worse, you might use it.
"Basically, we're talking about Xylocaine, a numbing agent. But I would never use it on an unstable ligament or one that's completely torn. I would never use it on a major joint like the knee.
"I would bet you that last year we didn't use it more than a half-dozen times on the Redskins. You also have to say the onus isn't always on the doctor. These guys are adults. You explain the pros and cons and they make the decision.
"If you don't think they should have it and they insist, then you have a decision to make. That's where it gets sticky. There have been times I absolutely refused."
John Lally, Bullet trainer, insisted "I've been a trainer since 1965 and I've never seen or heard of anybody shot up just to play a game.
"We've used a mixed shot - a combination of Xylocaine and cortisone - for a healing agent. When Wes Unseld sprained his ankle during the Philadelphia series (last season in the playoffs), he was given the mixed shot to help him heal.
"Football is different. Someone might be able to play with a pain-killer in the system because they have a full week to recover. But in basketball, you might have a game the next night.
"We feel a basketball player is an earning machine. He can earn millions. To shoot him up so he could play with an injury would be jeopardizing his career."
Listen to Derrick Dickey, a former member of the Golden State Warriors, the team Walton has chosen to play for next.
"The Warriors, the Trail Blazers, any sports organization, they'll ask the athlete to take the drug," Dickey said. "If you think you're not willing to help the ball club win by playing with a certain amount of pain, they can no longer use your services.
"It's a true-to-life story. If healthy or in pain, they'll find someone else who is willing to take the shots and play hurt."
Certainly in play-for-pay situations, there are constant pressures to perform.
"There are times as a professional athlete where you have to protect your job," said retired Redskin wide receiver Charley Taylor. "You can't wait six weeks for Mother Nature to do her stuff. Our jobs carry that pressure. No, it shouldn't be that way, but it is."
Redskin tight end Jean Fugett recalled his second season in Dallas. He was competing with Billy Joe Dupree for a starting position Fugett suffered a sprained arch, but decided he had to keep practicing and playing in order to beat out DuPree.
"So they shot my arch with some kind of numbing fluid, and I learned a lesson. Even numbing fluid, and I learned a lesson. Even though it didn't hurt' I wasn't able to use my foot properly. I could run, but when I tried to cut, I fell flat on my face. I also think it took longer to heal because I used it.
"But I was a younger player, competing for a job. There's an old saying that goes 'You can't make the club in the tub.' So there's a pressure to perform. If a doctor tells you he's got something that will help you, you go along.
I'll tell you something else. When that stuff wears off, you cry all night. You just try and take some Empirin and hope you don't wake up. It starts throbbing you break out in terrible sweets, and there's nothing you can do."
A number of Redskin players insisted they were never ordered to take injections by coaches or management.
"But they have their way of letting you know" Brundige said. "George (Allen) would make it very clear to you what your value was and how important you were to the team.
"But George didn't mess around with Stan (Lavine). If George had a team physician that was so pliable that he would say 'We've got to shoot him up' that's where you could have had problems. But Stan is strong doctor. He'd say 'I won't do it."
"You need a strong doctor, and that can cause some friction. There are guys on the Redkins who would play on matter what. You've got to have somebody who will tell you, hold on you can't play."
A number of players also insist that they never touch the stuff.
"When you got hurt, your body is telling you something," said Redskin middle linebacker Harold McLinton. "I just don't mess with those things. You've got to have all your senses playing this game, so I'd rather play with the pain, or just not play at all.
"I hope to live a long and happy life after I'm through with this. I don't want to be 45 and begging for shots and drugs. You see too many people like that, and it scares you."
Mike Curtis added "I'm not the kind of guy to bust up my body just to play in one game. It's not worth it. I've never used Xylocaine in any joint that was necessary for support.
"To tell the truth, I thought Brundige was stupid to play on his foot the way it was last year, but that was his business. That's one thing I can't stand - people trying to put their standards on something that affects somebody else.
"I lean toward a more egalitarian approach - get off my butt, I'll make my own decision, pay the consequences and I won't complain."