O. J. Simpson, the San Francisco 49ers' wounded running back, once again was the highest-paid player in the National Football League, according to a survey of 1978 salaries obtained by The Washington Post.
Simpson, who missed half the season with a shoulder injury, earned $733,358 for the 1978 season, a year that saw NFL salaries more than keep pace with inflation. The figures, computed by the NFL's Management Council, show the average NFL salary rose 13.2 percent -- from $55,000 in 1977 to $62.535 in 1978.
The Management Council's dollar figures on the average and median (midpoint) salaries by position, made public recently, did not include performance (incentive) clauses or play-off money.
The Management Council also broke down salaries from first-year players to 20-year players, by position, listing the highest salary paid, the lowest salary paid, the average and the median salary.
Using those figures (which were not made public), previously published salary estimates and interviews with several highly placed NFL ources, it is possible to deduce some of the game's highest-paid players.
In the running back category, for example, only three 10-year veterans were still active in 1978 -- Simpson, Larry Csonka of the New York Giants and Rocky Bleier of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Simpson generally has been acknowledged as the league's highest-paid performer.
Walter Payton, the Chicago Bear back, was the next highest-paid NFL player, at $431,500. Redskin fullback John Riggins earned $300,000 last season and Houston Oiler rookie sensation Earl Campbell was paid $199,666.
Fran Tarkenton of the Minnesota Vikings was the highest-paid quarterback at $360,000, parely edging Houston's Dan Pastorini ($358,333) and Oakland's Ken Stabler ($342,000).
Redskin reserve quarterback Billy Kilmer earned $230,000 in 1978.
Harold Jackson of the New England Patriots was the highest-paid wide receiver at $237,657.
The Patriots also had the league's highest-paid offensive lineman, offensive guard John Hannah, at $173,966.
Mel Blount, the Steelers' All-Pro cornerback, is believed to have earned $141,870 in 1978 to lead defensive backs.
Ken Houston, the Redskins' perennial AllPro strong safety, earned $98,000 in 1978. The incentive clauses in his contract, however, likely increased his wage considerably.
Eagle All-Pro Bill Bergey led the linebackers with $213,333, followed closely by another Pennsylvania terror, Jack Lambert of the Steelers.
There were only two 14th-year linebackers in the NFL in 1978 and both were Redskins. Chris Hanburger earned $125,000, with Mike Curtis at $115,000.
Pittsburgh's Joe Greene was the best-paid defensive lineman at $174,000. Diron Talbert, the Redskin defensive tackle, is believed to have earned $105,000 in 1978 according to NFL sources, and defensive end Ron McDole $100,000.
Garo Yepremian, the Dolphins' baldheaded placekicker, was the highest paid in his specialty at $90,000.
A breakdown by positions shows average salaries of quarterbacks increased by $13,000 over 1977, running backs by $2,000, receivers by $6,000, offensive linemen by $8,000, defensive linemen by $7,000, linebackers by $8,000, defensive backs by $7,000 and kickers by $7,000.
Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said he thought the figures released by the Management Council "on the whole are accurate. I have no reason to doubt them.
"If you take inflation into account, it's (overall) a 4 percent increase. The most encouraging part of the figures is that the medians went up for some of the lower salaried positions." CAPTION: Chart 1, Average Salaries By Position (TABLE) Quarterbacks(COLUMN)$102,606 Running backs(COLUMN) 66,516 Defensive linemen(COLUMN) 66,063 Offensive linemen(COLUMN) 60,241 Receivers(COLUMN) 59,824 Linebackers(COLUMN) 58,061 Defensive backs(COLUMN) 54,838 Kickers(COLUMN) 48,354 Average NFL salary(COLUMN) 62,585.(END TABLE) Chart 2, Salary Leaders By Position (TABLE) Quarterback(COLUMN)Tarkenton, Minn.(COLUMN)$360,000 Run. back(COLUMN)Simpson, San. Fran.(COLUMN) 733,358 Receiver(COLUMN)Jackson, N.E.(COLUMN) 237,657 Off. lineman(COLUMN)Hannah, N.E.(COLUMN) 173,966 Def. lineman(COLUMN)Greene, Pitt.(COLUMN) 174,000 Linebacker(COLUMN)Bergey, Phil.(COLUMN) 213,333 Def. back(COLUMN)Blount, Pitt.(COLUMN) 141,870 Kicker(COLUMN)Yepremian, Mia.(COLUMN) 90,000.(END TABLE) Picture, Tom Flores