It is over now for Leonard Hauss, the soft-talking center and statesman for the Washington Redskins these last 14 years until Coach Jack Pardee told him Monday night his services no longer were needed.
As is usually the case, somebody younger, faster, larger and, yes, maybe even better, came along. So it was time for Hauss to step aside. Some football players cry, others scream bloody murder when the day of reckoning arrives. Leonard Hauss would have none of that.
"What good does it do to say anything?" he said yesterday. "The only people who win are you guys, the press. All it does is create ink. So I don't want to get into anything with them. I'd like to think that's not my style.
"Yes, it's a hell of a way to go, but that's how things happen in this business. They'll get along without me. Every team gets along, so it really won't matter. Everybody leaves, it's nothing new. Somebody always get cut.
"Just let's say this. I played 14 years. I played as hard on the field as I possibly knew how. I played hard off the field, too. I enjoyed every minute of it. I had a great time. And it's over."
It began 14 summers ago for Hauss, then a self-proclaimed country boy from Jesup, Ga., who arrived at the Redskins' Carlisle training camp as a ninth-round draft choice out of Georgia. A week after he arrived, Hauss very nearly left camp.
His knees aching badly from a week of two-a-day practices, Hauss had packed his bags and was heading home. Before he left, however, he wanted to say good-bye to Joe Kuczo, then and now a Redskin trainer.
Kuczo had struck up a quick friendship with Hauss that first week, and when the rookie told him of his plans, the trainer told him not to leave, Kuczo went over to the team dormitory, talked Coach Bill McPeak into giving Hauss two weeks to rehabilitate and build up his achy joints, then convinced Hauss to stay.
"We worked on his knees.We had him running the stadium steps, lifting weights, and we kept him out of workouts," Kuczo recalled yesterday. "He stuck it out, we started playing games and before you know it he was our starting center. I've been working on those knees ever since."
Over the next 14 years, Hauss endured six knee operations. In 1975, while undergoing treatment for phlebitis in his left calf, a blood clot dislodged and very nearly killed him. Hauss came back and played the following season. He always played - 196 straight games, 192 as a starter.
His teammates will tell you that Len Hauss, more than anyone else, was the leader of the Redskins the past few years. When a speech had to be made, it was Hauss who stood up and made it in that soft Georgia drawl.
And when Hauss spoke, his teammates listened.
So, too, did the National Football League owners during negotiations on the landmark collective-bargaining agreement reached two years ago between the NFL Players Association and management. Hauss, now president of the union, was a driving force in consummating a contract and ending one of the ugliest disputes in the history of professional sports.
So it was not surprising that many of his teammates were deeply distressed by his being cut yesterday, even though many of them knew from the first day of training camp that Pardee was giving Bob Kuziel every opportunity to beat out Hauss.
"I just don't like the way they do things around here," one veteran player said. "A guy like Hauss, for all he's done for this team, to just cut him like that. No, it's not surprising, but it seems like they could have done it with a little more dignity for the guy. They just don't seem to care about things like that."
There has been a lot of grumbling among the Redskins this summer over the new way of doing things. The trades of Eddie Brown and Tim Stokes, the demotion of starting defensive end Dennis Johnson and his cut yesterday, and rumors that popular punter Mike Bragg was on the trading block several weeks ago have not done much for the morale of the older veterans on the team.
It was learned yesterday that several players went to General Manager Bobby Beathard and told him they would quit the team if Bragg were traded.
Many players believe some of the cuts and trades have been economically inspired, that the Redskins no longer are willing to keep high-priced talent sitting one the bench, as George Allen so often did.
Pardee has always winced at comparisons with Allen, the man he replaced, and his cut of Hauss more than anything else he has done so far goes a long way toward symbolizing the difference in methods of the two men.
"George would never have had the guts to do what Jack did," one Redskin official said about Hauss' cut. "He'd have found a way to keep him around, paid his salary and then left him announce his retirement in the offseason."
But Pardee has demonstrated he is a no-nonsense coach, a pragmatist who bases decisions on fact more than emotion.
So, the coach looked at the films, determined that Kuziel would do a better job and that it was time for Leonard Hauss to leave.
"We talked about it. He told me his side of the story, and that's all I really want to say," Hauss said. "I'm not surprised. But I'm going to just let it die. I'm going home to Georgia. It's that time."