Two starters from a year ago and the captain of the special teams were among six players the Washington Redskins yesterday announced had been placed on no-recall waivers Monday. They also claimed running back Jack Deloplaine from the Pittsburg Steelers to reach the 45-player NFL opening-day limit.
The players cut were veteran center Len Hauss and starting defensive end Dennis Johnson; injured special-teams captain Rusty Tillman; offensive tackle Mike Hughes; tight end Jim Mandich, and defensive end Duncan McColl.
Deloplaine, a 5-foot-10, 215-pound running back and special-teamer, was 10th in the American Football Conference in 1976 in punt returning and 15th in kickoffs. He underwent knee operations after the 1976 and 1977 seasons.
"Pittsburg had a lot of backs, and they couln't protect him," said Redskins Coach Jack Pardee. "He's another back (the Redskins' fifth) and can play special teams as well, so he was just what we were looking for."
Meanwhile, as the team continued to prepare for the regular-season opener Sunday in New England, several Redskins sources said there was no question that Joe Theismann would start at quarterback.
Pardee continued to evade the Billy-or-Joe question. "We still have two quarterbacks," he said."I don't know if I will tell the team who will start or not. I don't know if they can keep a secret."
Pardee said he agonized over the final team cuts and that he "hated" to let Hauss go. "I thought Bob Kuziel had played exceptionally well," he said. "When you cut down to 43 it's hard to keep more than eight offensive linemen."
Hauss had started 192 straight games at center going into this season, but lost his starting job to Kuziel, 28, a fourth-year man who saw most of the playing time in the preseason. Ted Fritsch, a valuable special-teams man as a kick snapper, will now back him up.
"Obviously, I'm very pleased because I reached a goal I've had since I left college to start in this league," Kuziel said. "But I'm not happy about Lenny leaving. He's good friend. I don't really feel I beat him out as much as it was a combination of things, not the least important of which was youth.
"I showed them I could play and I'm going into the peak years for an offensive lineman. That had a lot to do with their decision. I'm sure. Now the hard part begins. The fans, the front office and most important my teammates expect a Len Hauss performance out of me every week."
Johnson had been the Redskins' starting right defensive end since 1975 and led the team in sacks last year with 10. Although Johnson was only 26 and the youngest starting defensive lineman a year ago, he became expendable when the Redskins acquired Coy Bacon in the off season.
"I figured they weren't getting Coy to sit on the bench and I sensed something when they acquired him," Johnson said yesterday.
Johnson who sustained a knee injury and was placed on the injured-reserve list for the final three games of 1977, was used sparingly in the preseason and did not play at all in the final exhibition game against Atlanta Friday.
"It's a decision Jack had to make," Johnson added. "I just hope I get picked up by somebody. I know I can still play. I'm just now getting into the prime of my football life.
"You learn in this game to expect everything. I thought I could help the Redskins out, even if it was in a reserve role, but obviously what I did out there (on the field), they weren't satisfied with."
Pardee said, "All of the players who had played more than Dennis at that position in the preseason looked better than Dennis, so I had to turn him loose." He also said he thought another NFL team would claim Johnson off the walver list.
Tillman underwent surgery two weeks ago to remove cartilage in his left knee and team trainers said he had been making a swift recovery. However, he was not expected to be ready to play before the third game of the regular season, and Pardee said he had more pressing needs at other positions.
"I really don't know what's going on." Tillman said. "Hell, yes, I'm upset about it. I've never been cut before in my life. I'll just see what happens, I know I can still play, and I'd like it to be here. All I can do now is wait."
Mandich's stock dropped sharply when he suffered a sprained ankle and possible stress fracture early in a preseason game against the Baltimore Colts. He has not worked out or played since.
Starter Jean Fugett is still limping on a prained ankle, giving the Redskins two ailing tight ends. Last week, the Redskins acquire Greg McCrary from Atlanta, a move that sealed Mandich's fate.
Ironically, McCrary, who has worked out this week as the No. 2 tight end behind second-year man Reggie Haynes, passed out from heat exhaustion midway through yesterday's practice.
He was taken to the training room for treatment and said later that he felt he was fully recovered.
"It just felt like my head caved in, but I'll be all right," McCrary said. "I'm sure I'll be practicing tomorrow."
Hughes was acquired early last week from the New York Jets for a 10th-round draft choice, that now reverts back to the Redskins.He also did not play against the Falcons. The Redskins will go with second-year man Jim Harlan as a backup tackle. Donnie Hickman, acquired in the Eddie Brown trade from the Rams, will be the backup guard.
McColl was the Redskins' top draft pick (in the fourth round) a year ago and was on injured reserve last season. He was expendable because Kari Lorch and Perry Brooks can play both defensive end and tackle while McColl was strictly an end.
The cuts of Hauss, Johnson and Tillman were not well received.
"It's always tough to lose a friend," running back Mike Thomas said of Johnston. "We've been roommates a pointed. From being a starter last year, then losing your position before you come to camp and then never getting a chance to play, that's tough. Sure it bothers me. Sure it's a fun game, but it's a business, too."
Offensive tackle Terry Hermeling was equally distressed about the cuts of Hauss and Tillman. "Lenny's going to be missed not only because he was a great player but because he was a great leader," he said. "Everybody in their career has to go through it. It's just too bad they did it the way they did it. He's a great friend of mine. I've got more respect for him than anyone I've ever played with.
"Now with Rusty being cut, well, it seems like I've lost every friend I've ever had here. Rusty and I made it together as free agents in 1970. Now I'm the only guy left from the 10 guys who made it that year."
Others looked at the moves philosophically.
"You think about it because pretty soon, like next year or the year after, it will be my turn," said all-pro safety Ken Houston. "It was a surprise for them to cut a young guy like Dennis, but when you've played 12, 13, 14 years like Lenny, you know it's coming. Once you get past 10 years, you can start looking over your shoulder." Redskin Roster
QUARTERBACKS - Joe Theismann, Billy Kilmer.
RUNNING BACKS - Mike Thomas, John Riggins, Clarence Harmon, Tony Green, Jack Deloplaine.
WIDE RECEIVERS - Frank Grant Danny Buggs, J.T. Smith, Larry Franklin, Ricky Thompson.TIGHT ENDS - Jean Fugett, Reggie Haynes, Greg McCrary.
CENTERS - Bob Kuziel, Ted Fritsch.
TACKLES - George Starke, Terry Hermeling, Jim Harlan.
GUARDS - Ron Saul, Dan Nugent, Donnie Hickman.
DEFENSIVE LINE - Coy Bacon. Dave Butz, Diron Talbert, Perry Brooks, Karl Lorch, Ron McDole.
LINEBACKERS - Chris Hamburger, Harold McLinton, Brad Dusek, Mike Curtis, Pete Wysocki, Don Hover, Dallas Hickman.
DEFENSIVE BACKS - Ken Houston, Jake Scott, Joe Lavender, Lemar Parrish, Gerard Williams, Donnie Harris, Mark Murphy.
KICKER - Mark Moseley.
PUNTER - Mike Bragg.