Benny Malone, the bowlegged back who came limping to the Washington Redskins seven weeks ago, has had what Coach Jack Pardee described yesterday as "his best practice week this season" and is expected to get extensive playing time Sunday.
It is merely a coincidence, Pardee insisted, that the Redskins' opponent is the Miami Dolphins, the team that employed Malone for 4 1/2 seasons before trading him earlier this year.
"Sure, players like to play against the teams they came from," Pardee said, "but that's not why we plan to play Benny this week. I wish he'd been able to play all along. This is the first week he hasn't been bothered by his ankle, a knee or not knowing what we were doing."
Malone insisted it will be "kinda fun" to play against old friends.
"But you can't get yourself all emotional about it," he said. "You have to approach it like any other game.
"I'm still not even sure I am playing; I never know. I'd love to play, sure. I've been disappointed that I haven't played more. But I don't want that to come out the wrong way. Anyone who is not playing and who isn't unhappy, well, then they're not a football player.
"But I understand the situation here. I think Mike (Thomas) has been doing a great job; Clarence (Harmon) is doing fine. I've got a lot of respect for those guys, and the coaches know if they need me to play, I'll be ready, too."
Despite carrying the ball only 11 times for 18 yards and catching two passes for 19 for Washington, Malone insists the trade from Miami probably was the best thing that could have happened.
Malone spent most of the early part of this season on Miami's bench, playing mostly on the Dolphin special teams and watching tailback Delvin Williams become one of the top runners in the AFC.
Malone's star supposedly declined after he fumbled near the goal line against San Diego midway through the 1977 season, the error leading to a game-winning Charger touchdown and Malone's benching in favor of Gary Davis.
Malone insists he does not bear a grudge against Dolphin Coach Don Shula, nor will he say what precisely happned to sour the relationship. "Its history," he says.
"Actually, I asked to be traded last January. Things just weren't working out for me. I got along with Shula, but there were other things happening and I just don't want to go into all of that. It was a bad situation, that's all I'll say.
"Getting traded was no great surprise to me because I knew sooner or later they had to do something. They'd made the big trade for Delvin Williams, I'd been in the league five years and they had Gary Davis. I figured one of us would go, and it was me.
"But all those guys are still my good friends. I talk to quite a few of them all the time. I talked to (tight end) Andre Tillman earlier in the week and we both think it's just a game to us. It would be great to win, but no matter what happens, we'll still be friends."
If Malone does play -- and several sources say he probably will alternate with Thomas at tailback -- he will be operating behind an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries.
Pardee said yesterday he probably will start Jim Harlan at left guard instead of Ron Saul, who is limping with a sprained ankle and a torn groin muscle. Jeff Williams will open at right tackle, the position at which Harlan started in the Dallas game. Harlan and Williams are second-year pros.
"We're hopeful that we can play better in those spots," said Pardee. "We're in a situation now where Terry Hermeling is the only lineman playing Sunday who was playing last year, and he's in a different position."
Malone insisted it won't matter who does the blocking for him.
"I'll just be happy to get the chance to play," he said."You always want to make a contribution. I just hope I get the chance."
Fullback John Riggins returned to the workouts, but still was limping on a sore right ankle. Pardee said he would decide Sunday whether Riggins plays... Kicker Mark Mosely rested his sore right leg again but said he would try to kick today. "As long as I can swing my leg, I'll be able to kick Sunday," he said. "I plan to play, definitely. It's still sore, but I can live with it."... Charley Taylor, Redskins assistant director of player personnel and the NFL's all-time leading pass receiver, has been invited to participate in a Superstars competition for retired stars. He leaves for Freeport in the Bahamas next week to compete against the likes of John Havlicek, Hank Aaron and Gale Sayers.