The longest regular season in the history of the National Football League is almost over, and while the 1l-game schedule is here to stay, several Redskin players and Coach Jack Pardee believe some changes in injury policies are in order.
That is also the view of Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association, who yesterday called for an increase in roster limits from the current 45 to 47 and the establishment of a three-man move list, or taxi squad, next season.
"The effect (of 16 games) has clearly been more dramatic than we anticipated," Garvey said yesterday. "There are a lot more injuries, and with the absurd injury policy of the NFL, it's placed an incredible burden on players to play hurt, which leads to even more injuries.
"We've suggesting something has to change. By having a move list, you can put an injured man on it and not lose him for the season, the way the injury-reserve rule is now. A lot of teams are reluctant to put people on the injured-reserve list, and some people have been rushed into playing before they're really fully recovered physically.
"The players are not happy about it (the 16-game schedule) at all."
Redskin safety Ken Houston is among them.
"Every game you play, you get some kind of injury, and it gets to the point where at the end of the year, you've slowed down tremendously," Houston said.
"I've had problems with a groin pull for four or five weeks. I've had helmit hits on my things and they bother me. Other guys have sprained ankles, little injuries that don't keep you out of games but they add up and make a difference in how you play, especially at the end of the year.
"I don't think they could ever ask a guy to play more than 16 games, especially keeping the roster the size it is now. You just couldn't take it physically."
Redskin tight end Jean Fugett agreed.
"I also don't think it's fair to the fans," Fugett said, "because I don't think you get consistent football over 16 games. They've not getting the kind of quality they should, and it frustates their expections.
"It also seems to me there are more starters on th injured-reserve list this year than ever before and you can attribute it to two things-16 games and more, artificial fields than ever. Also, these Thursday and Saturday games don't help the product, either.
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"I know people will say it's still a 20-game season (16 regular season and four preseason in 1978 as opposed to 14 regular and six exhibitions in the past), but with the shorter preseason, veterans have to play a lot more in the exhibition games than they did before.
"On the old schedule, I'd usually play a quarter the first two games, maybe a half in the last two and then most of the last two. Now, the coaches want you to play as much as you can in preseason, and you can't graually ease into it. Eventually the wear and tear is going to cut down on a player's career."
The NFL does not break down its injured-reserve list by starters and substitutes, but its figures show a drop in the total number of injured reserves from a year ago. In 19778 there were 208 players on injured reserve after the 14-week season. This year, there were 194 on injured reserve after 14 games and 20k after 15 games.
"I don't think their figures are relevant," Fugett said. "I just know there's an awful lot of people who probably shouldn't be playing at all, but they're still on active rosters in the event their teams make the play-offs. A lot of teams are playing shorthanded, too."
For awhile, the Redskins were one of them. "I can remember awhile back having Perry Brooks (a defensive tackle) practicing at fullback," Pardee said yesterday.
"I've been in favor of the 16-game schedule. Teams that have had serious injuries early have had a chance to get over them and salvage something out of their seasons. Miami, with Bob Griese, is one of them.
"But they do need to do something about the injury rule. I think it's evident that if someone gets hurt, you have to have some way to activate players that can help you. With the extended season, there's got to be some way to get some of them (injured-reserve players) back.
"Everybody wants a good product. But the problem is that everyone is afraid of stashing players, of somebody trying to take advantage and stockpile people."
Pardee also is opposed to the deadline after the sixth week that prevents a team from bringing back a player it cut earlier in the season. "Why shouldn't you be able to bring back a player who knows your system?" he asked. "I don't think that would hurt."
Paul Sonnabend, executive director of the NFL Management Council, said yesterday that he does not anticipate any major rules changes as a result of the longer season.
"We feel the season has gone well," he said. "I'm sure the union would like to see the squad limit increased. They've always anxious to see extra players employed. But I see no need for it. We haven't seen teams handicapped by the 45-man squad.
"The commissioner has indicated he'd like to see a study of bringing players back from the injured-reserve list at one point. That may be looked at this year."