Jeff Williams, the young offensive tackle who walked out of training camp midway through the preseason has filed a grievance against the Redskins and the NFL Management Council, claiming he was denied the right to play football for the 1978 season after changing his mind about retiring.
Williams, 23, was obtained with guard Donnie Hickman and three draft choices from the Los Angeles Rams in the Eddie Brown trade. He reported to the Redskins' Carlisle, Pa., camp two weeks after the trade. He left camp a week later, telling Coach Jack Pardee he was tired of football.
According to the NFL constitution, players who leave a team under those circumstances must be placed on a reserve list and cannot play for that team, or any other team, during the same season. The player has five days from the time he leaves to change his mind before being placed on the reserve list.
According to Dick Berthelsen, NFL Players Association staff counsel, Williams called the Redskins after that five-day period had expired and attempted to rejoin the team. He said the Redskins told him that was not possible, and filed the grievance Sept. 6.
"Our contention is that this case focuses on a rule that the (NFL) clubs passed without negotiating it in the collective bargaining agreement," Berthelsen said. "This is the second time the rule has ever been used this way. Five or six years ago we had a player in Oakland with a similar situation, but he decided not to file the grievance.
"The Players Association and Jeff Williams have file a grievance, saying the rule itself is illegal and invalid. And secondly, even if it is valid, the Redskins did not follow the proper procedures on the rule itself.
"Jeff wants to play this year. If it can't be for the Redskins it should be somewhere else. We think it's inconceivable that a team can say he can't play with them, or anyone else, and yet he's still under contract to that team."
Larry Lucchino, staff counsel for the Redskins,s said he had not received a copy of the grievance. "We'll look at it when we get it and respond accordingly," he said. "We're surprised he's done this because we think we've treated him fairly."
The Redskins have 10 days to reply to the grievance. If the issue cannot be settled between Williams and the club, it will be presented to the NFL's Player-Club Relations Committee (PCRC), composed of two players and two management repsentatives. If the PCRC cannot decide the issue, it then would go to an impartial arbitrator.
Williams was not available for comment.