Veteran center Len Hauss was cut from the Washington Redskins last year in part because he could bench press only 185 pounds.
"He was weak," General Manager Bobby Beathard said today. "He had a great career, but once he got older, he didn't have the strength to make up for his advancing age."
Free agent Greg Dubinetz can bench press 500 pounds, making him one of the strongest men on this year's Redskin team. He is being given a long look as an offensive lineman, in part because he is so powerful.
"You can't compete with the Pittsburghs and Dallases of this league if you aren't physically strong," said Coach Jack Pardee. "How can you stand toe to toe with a 250-pound lineman and expect to shove him around with your hands if you can't even lift a 300-pound dead weight?"
So now the Redskins, once described by Beathard as "old, weak and slow," are playing catchup with the rest of the NFL in the area of conditioning. To be good, Pardee is convinced, means first to be strong, very strong.
Where once weightlifting was voluntary for every Redskin and despised by most veterans, who believe technique more important than strength, it is now a mandatory part of the club's training routine.
"If you don't go to the lifting area, it's just like if you don't show up for a meeting on time," said Pardee. "It's a fine. That emphasizes what we are talking about to them.
"But I think the players are waking up to what we are asking of them. They see the results and they see the guy across from them is stronger. Unless you are dumb, the only answer has to be to make yourself stronger."
Pardee instituted a thorough weightlifting program at Chicago. Within a year, he said, the team went from being very weak to one of the strongest in the league. And the Bear's record also improved dramatically.
"We (the Redskins) are a stronger football team now than we were last year at this time," Pardee said. "How much? Maybe 50 or 60 percent stronger. Give us another year. By then we should be really developed where we should be."
What is startling is that Washington was so far behind in the science of strength development. Although emphasis on weightlifting is only about 15 years old, many major college and professional teams quickly designed a program and long ago began reaping benefits.
George Allen, although a lover of gimmicks, was not a lifting enthusiast as coach of the Redskins. He had both weight and stretch coaches, but as long as neither commanded a mandatory program, participation was limited to such players as Terry Hermeling, Dan Nugent, Ron Saul and a few others.
When Pardee took over last year and immediately hired a weight coach, Bobby Bernhards, the change and the new staff member were met with resistance.
Pardee took care of much of the friction by casting off many of the nonbelievers in the offseason. Any remaining doubters probably were convinced by the way Pardee regards lifting. Those who excel get an extra look, those who don't are in trouble.
Offensive lineman Jeff Williams, for example, was considered physically weak last year. "A marshmallow body," said Pardee. But he has done enough weightlifting to increase his strength while still being able to run a 4.85-second 40-yard dash (despite weighing at the time 281 pounds). Now he is being counted on to earn a starting guard spot.
The Redskins also hope that improved strength will help reduce injuries. Pardee is convinced, through observation, that the Steelers and the Cowboys have fewer injuries than other teams in football, mainly because they emphasize lifting.
"You never hear of them losing guys because of injuries," he said. "But it makes sense. If you aren't strong enough to absorb blows, something has to give, usually a part of your body. You have no way of standing up against the punishment."
The weightlifting program consists of offseason and seasonal workouts. In the offseason, players living in the Washington area report three days a week to Redskin Park and do about 75 minutes of lifting, working on schedules set up by Bernhards, a competitive lifter for nine years.
He also monitors the strength programs of out-of-town players through phone calls and letters.
Once the club reaches training camp, and throughout the season, the players are on a four-day-a-week routine. Each day, they do a different exercise drawn from the four standard lifts in the program.
The first exercise is a bench press, where the lifter lays supine on a bench and pushes the bar away from his chest to strengthen his arms and upper body. The second is a squat, where the lifter puts the bar behind his head and on his shoulders and does a deep knee bend. The third is a push pull, where the lifter grabs the barbell at his feet and pulls it up to chest level while straightening. The fourth is an incline pull, similar to the bench press except it is done while lying at about a 45 degree angle.
The Redskins use barbells to train, despite the current rage for universal and nautilus type machines. Berhards says he prefers dead weights because it's easier to work on specific muscles and specific parts of the body. "I'm more used to them anyway, I trained with them for so long."
Not every player is convinced that weights are miracle workers, however. Said one: "It still is more important to master technique. I just don't use that many weightligting muscles on the football field. Strength alone won't do it. A guy like Coy Bacon has hardly lifted in his life but you better believe he is strong."
John Riggins returned to Kansas, where his wife gave birth to their second child, an eight-pound, three-ounce baby girl, Portia Rose. CAPTION: Pictures 1 through 5, new look around the Redskin training camp, clockwise from upper left: bench pressing center Bob Kuziel, straining safety Mark Murphy, veteran tackle Diron Talbert doing squats, running back Tony Green midst situps, a more muscular Benny Malone. Photos by Richard Darcey -- The Washington Post