With Tony Green still limping and "very doubtful" for action tomorrow against the New York Jets, Washington Redskin defensive linesmen Coy Bacon and Diron Talbert yesterday came up with a sure-fire way to gain a lot of yards on kickoff returns.
While the Redskins's kickoff coverage unit was practicing, those two large merry men decided to have a bit of fun. Talbert tucked a ball under his shirt while Bacon was fiedling a kickoff.
After Bacon caught the ball, they huddled together, each put a ball behind his back and took off, in opposite directions, leaving the coverage team in disarray.
"That's a 12-point play." Talbert bellowed while his teammates howled. But with Green hobbling on his sprain left knee, and unable to practice again, no one was laughing about the Redskins' return problems against the Jets.
Redskin Coach Jack Pardee said again he will make his final determination on Green's status before kickoff, but admitted "it doesn't look good." It appeared likely that Clarence Harmon once more will have to come to the Redskins rescue.
Harmon is the quiet young man from Mississippi State who made the Redskins as a free agent last year and wound up starting at fullback for the last nine games after John Riggins and Bob Brunet had their season ended by injuries in Dallas.
Pardee said Harmon will probably start off returning both punts and kickoffs against the Jets if Green is unavailable. Lamar Parrish, he added, also probably will be asked to handle punts.
I think Clarence, particularly, can do a good job on kickoff returns because of the type of runner he is" Pardee said. "He's real good back. I always hate to compare to anyone, but if I had to, I'd compare him to Roland Harper, our fullback in Chicago.
"We drafted him (Harper) in the 17th round, and after the first scrimage it was obvious he was the best runner we had, our most consistent back. Walter(Payton) was the superstar, but we counted on Roland for everything.
"Clarence does everything, too. He blocks well catches well and runs well. We have to have players like that if we're going to be a good football team."
Harmon insisted that "I really do hope Tony sets well I'd rather have him back there than me because we need him. If not, I'll just go out there and do the best I can.
"I returned some kickoffs at Mississipi State and I do like it. I went 98 yards once in junior college, but that was a long time ago. Last year, I played on the side on some kickoffs and handled the ball (once for 18 yards) and I'm looking forward to it. My technique? I just go with my blockers."
There is nothing fancy about Harmon. He is probably the Redskins slowest running back, but he also is the most versatile. He plays both tail-back and fullback, has good hands and, most important, has been durable.
Last week against the Cardinals, he averaged 54 yards on nine carries and caught two passes for 25 yards. One, for 16 yards, helped set up a Washington touchdown.
"Last year was a real long-shot for me to take this team," he said, "especially with Coach Allen here and his reputation with rookies. But I was lucky. I was one of the few backs who stayed healthy all during camp. That, and being able to play two positions were the big reasons.
"I pray a lot, and I feel like I've been blessed to play the game. When I came back this year, I felt a lot more confident, not over-confident because I knew I'd still have to work hard. That's how I made it last year and that'ill never change for me."
During the winter, however, when Harmon returned to his hometown of Kosciusko, Miss, some things had changed.
"Yeah, everybody knew who I was, they all wished me well," he said. "They even had a Clarence Harmon day.
"They had this big reception and an open house at the bank. No parade or anything mostly autograph signing, things like that. There was a guy from the town who once played in the World Football League, but never the NFL.
"I was very fortunate. Things seemed to go my way. I just hope it keeps happening."
With Tony Green still hobbled, so do his teammates.
Parade got another small scare when corner back Joe Lavender bumped knees with receiver Danny Buggs during a seven-on-seven drill. Lavender went into the training room for treatment but returned to practiced and said his knee felt fine. . . . The offensive line coach, Ray Callahan, was limping badly. A piece of cartiledge apparently lodged in his right knee joint, but he is expected to be available for headphone duty tomorrow.