Coach Jack Pardee said yesterday he has decided who will start at quarterback for the Washington Redskins. But hold the drum roll, please "I'm not going to tell you," he said, "because I'm afraid you'll put it in the paper and let New England read it."
So, as the Redskins returned to the practiced field yesterday for their first workout of the regular season, both Joe Theismann and Billy Kilmer split the work in the major 11-on-11 drill, each man taking 22 plays.
But Theismann went first. In fact, he started off every drill of the day with the first unit, and it still seems obvious he is the man Pardee has selected to go against a fast and fierce Patriot defense.
"It just makes sense," one Redskin said yesterday. "Joe might have a pretty good chance of getting away from them. Billy would be a sitting duck. But they haven't told anybody yet. We still don't know.
That was what Theismann and Kilmer said after the 90-minute workout on artificial turf, the surface the Redskins will encounter in Foxboro, Mass., Sunday.
"If they've made the decision, they haven't told me yet," Theismann said. "All I do is go out and do my job. They haven't said a word."
Theismann practiced with his sore left knee wrapped. He admitted, "I'm not 100 percent," but he said against he anticipates no problems playing Sunday.
"You're asking the wrong guy," Kilmer said."I'm the last one to know (about Pardee's decision)."
"No, I haven't told them yet," Pardee said. "But we still have to have both of them ready. Right now, we're more concerned about getting our running game going.
"Whoever the quarterback is, he's got to have a supporting cast. There are other phases of the game that are more important than the quarterback decision.
"Last weekend was one of the most disastrous in preseason history as far as injuries go. Green Bay, Baltimore, Miami, Cincinnati - they all lost quarterbacks. That just proves how important it is to have two No. 1 quarterbacks."
Pardee also insisted the order of appearance in yesterday's workouthad little or no significance, and he indicated both men probably would continue to split time. "We're going to keep both of them ready," he said.
Patriot Coach Chuck Fairbanks said he will prepare for both Theismann and Kilmer during practice this week, "because you're never sure until they line up Sunday.
"I'd really not even want to comment on their quarterback situation," Fairbanks said. "I just don't like to make comments on other people's personnel.
"The differences in the two players are obvious, and both have their strong points. Billy's got great experience and he's won for them an awful long them. He uses his personnel so well. I admire the heck out of the guy.
"Joe is much more active and mobile and seems to have the ability to make big plays himself when other things break down around him. But I think both of them have a real value to the Redskins because they are so contrasting.
"Certainly, we've got to prepare for two different styles, but that's part of the game.They've got to prepare for a lot of different things we do, so it all kind of evens out."
Fairbanks said he is concerned more about his team's nagging injury list. Starting running backs Sam Cunningham (knee) and tight end Russ Francis (sprained ankle) did not play in the final preseason game, although Fairbanks said, "I think they'll all be ready to play.
"Our guys have worked hard this summer," he said. "But I am a little concerned about how far along we are as far as preparation and the amount of time we've had. We're just not as detailed in our execution as we have been.
"I think a lot of teams are finding that, with the shorter training period, it's difficult to get a cohesive offense going right away. I just hope in our practices this week we'll show some improvement. Against that Washington defense - we'd better.
Still, the Patriots have been more than impressive, averaging 20 points and 310 yards of offense per game, even if starting quarterback Steve Grogan has completed only 43 percent of his passes and tossed up four interceptions.
The Patriots have turned 49 percent of their third-down plays into first downs and have shown a tendency to strike early and tighten up defensively late. They have outscored their opponents by 39 points (42-3) in the first quarter and 21-0 in the fourth. They also have given up only 31 points defensively.
"But none of that means anything right now," Fairbanks said. "No, I don't know that much about the Redskins yet. But I do know those guys know how to win. They've got fine personnel and their defense is as strong as ever. We expect a tough football game."
The Redskins began making the moves to cut down the roster from 50 men to 43. They will then add two more tomorrow for the final roster limit of 45, and Pardee said the final cuts probably will be announced tonight . . . Center Len Hauss did not work out yesterday. He was kicked in the knee against the Falcons and spent the day receiving treatment in the training room . . . Jean Fugett also was held out of the workout, and Pardee said the tight end probably will not practice again today so he can rest his bruised left knee . . . The Redskins will wear white shoes this season when they play on artifical turf, and many players started breaking them in yesterday.