John Riggins would like to believe the optimistic talk that the redskins are still in the playoff race; that there is still hope for a wild-card berth if they beat the Chicago Bears today in the season windup at 1 p.m. (WDVM-TV-9) at RFK stadium.
But the Redskin fullback also is a pragmatist.
"I'm not mush of a gambler, but I sure don't like the odds," he said yesterday. "I suppose anything's possible, and I sure would accept one more handout.
"I don't like having to sit around to have the governor wait and change his mind, a stay of execution you might say. I don't think the governor's gonna change his mind. And if you look around some of these lockers, you might get the idea some of these other guys don't like the odds, either."
After what could have been the final practice of the season yesterday, many players were scurrying around the locker room with Christmas gift footballs for teammates to autograph, in case they don't gather on Tuesday for a playoff practice. Several players had cleaned out their locker stalls, the better for a quick exit if things don't turn out well.
The 8-7 Redskins can advance to the playoffs only if they defeat the 6-9 Bears today. Then, the New York Giants must defeat the Eagles on Sunday, and either Minnesota (playing at Oakland) or Green Bay (playing at Los Angeles) must lose.
If all that happens, the Redskins would play the Falcons in Atlanta on Christmas Eve.
Oddmakers favor the Redskins would play the Falcons in Atlanta on Christmas Eve.
Oddmakers favor the Redskins in the first part of the parlay, installing them as four-point favorites over a Bear team that comes to town with nothing more than pride and a chance to beat Jack Pardee, their former coach, as incentives.
Pardee is still a believer in his team's longshot chances, although the Redskins have lost their last four games and seven of their previous nine.
"I'm more concerned about us doing our job, beating the Bears, and if we do that . . . well, you just have to accept whatever it is," Pardee said. "All we can do is go out and win and watch a lot of TV on Sunday.
"The way the breaks have been going, we're sure due some. They always seem to average out, and we are about due. Sure we need some help, but help won't do us any good if we don't do our job."
The Redskins' most important task of the day will involve stopping dynamic runners Walter Payton and Roland Harper.
Payton has gained 1,305 yars this season to lead the NFC, with a 4.1 yard average and 10 touchdowns. Harper has gained 918 yards with a 4.2 yard mark and six touchdowns. If he gains 82 yards, the Bears would become only the third team in NFL histroy to have two 1,000-yard runners the same season.
Pardee coached both for three years, and he spent a good bit of his postpractice comments yesterday offering lavish praise for Payton, whom he described as "the kind of guy you'd like to have a whole team of."
The Bears are expected to open again with Mike Phipps at quarterback. His main targets will be Payton, who has 49 catches, and wide receiver James Scott, with 40 catches, five for touchdowns.
Phipps has replaced former Maryland player Bob Avellini, benched last week after a disastrous showing Monday night two weeks ago against the Chargers.
Phipps has completed 52 percent of his throws, but has thrown an interception for every 10 passes this season. He has been picked off seven times, thrown only two touchdown passes.
The Redskin offense will work against a defense ranked sixth overall in the NFC, eighth against the rush and eight against the pass.$"It's a typical Chicago defense, very physical," said quarterback Joe Theismann. "We've just got to give it our best shot,"
The Redskins also would like Riggins to rush 30 yards and reach his second career 1,000-yard season, although the big fullback says he has no special feeling about reaching that plateau.
"Actually, I'm kinda thinking about getting 1,000, losing one and finishing with 999," he said with a sly smile. "Then I'll be able to say I did it my way."
Pardee also was smailing when he ended what could have been his final postpractice press conference of the season.
"I hope we can get ready for the Falcons," he said, "I'm counting on it. Our preparations have gone on, with that in mind."
Redskin tight end Jean Fugett said statements he had made in a taped interview with WTOP radio reporter Bernie Smilovitz "have been blown way out of proportion and I didn't mean them as a criticism of Jack (Pardee)." Fugett said in the interview the team's "biggest problem was losing and not knowing how to deal with it, both the coaches and players. There was a accommunication problem and because of it there was alot of friction. It could have been corrected but it never was and got out of hand." Yesterday, Fugett said, "I might have made some misstatements. As far as coaches communicating with players, I was talking about some problems early in the season, with new players coming in and all that. I don't want to make a big issue out of something that's not really very important" . . . Chicago kicker Bob Thomas is a remarkable 16 of 17 from inside the 40-yard line this season, 17 for 21 overall . . . The Bear lead the overall series with the Redskins, 16-10-1, including a 33-7 rout of the Redskins in 1976 at Chicago's Soldier Field.