Mike Curtis' fabled 14-year professional football career may have ended today when he was cut by the Washington Redskins.
Curtis, 36, who played to years with Wasington, was another victim of the Redskin youth movement, which has seen the emergence of a handfull of fine young linebackers in this training camp.
"We had to make a decission concerning youth and veterans," said Coach Jack Pardee. "We just had to give our young people the extra work. Mike's reaction was tremendous. He suspected it was coming and he took it well.
"He still thinks he can play another year and I told him, with a 16-game schedule, that his changes of catching on somewhere in the NFL this year were good."
The redskins had seriously considered not bringing Curtis to camp. When players like Don Hover, Neal Olkewicz and Dan Petersen showed promise, Curtis became expendable.
Although his agressive play both as a middle and outside linebacker made Curtis a favorite of Washington fans, the Redskins feld he had become slower and lost his ability to tackle consistently.
Harold McLinton remains as the No. 1 middle linebacker, but he is 32 and starting his 11th year in the league. For now he is holding onto his job, but the coaches are keeping a close eye on the development of Hover and other challengers.
"No matter what," said one team source, "the younger players will see time. Harold plays good position football but his legs aren't what they used to be. He has some circulation problems and they can bother him. But we'd have to be awful sure of one of those youngsters before you go with a rookie middle linebacker."
Pardee acknowledged that McLinton has had difficulty "playing 20 games a season. He had to come out of two or three games last season. By using him sparingly in these preseason games, it will help him and it will give our younger players more time."
Curtis may not be the last veteran linebacker to depart, even if McLinton survives camp. Rookie outside linebackers Monte Coleman and Rich Milot are improving so much that they now have the edge as backups to Pete Wysocki and Brad Dusek. That would leave such players as Dallas Hickman and Ken Geddes scrambling to stay with the club.
Curtis' bid to make the team was hurt by a bout with stomach flu the first week the veterans reported and he missed seven days of practice.
"We had the rookies for rookie week and then for another week while he was out. We got a real good look at them," said Pardee. "It became a matter of whether we should make the decision now or wait a while.
"This means someone like Olkewicz can have four of five more plays in a game. Mike wasn't on any special teams and if he wasn't a starter, it seemed better to keep a young one and groom him."
Hover, a second-year man from Washington State who, ironically, had not been having a standout training camp at first, finally led the Redskins to decide to waive Curtis. Hover played a superior quarter against Tampa Bay, catching the eyes of the coaches and diminishing Curtis' chances.
Curtis in his glory years played for Baltimore, where he earned four trips to the Pro Bowl and won MVP honors in Super Bowl 5. He was one of that special breed of middle linebackers such as Dick Butkus and Willie Lanier, who helped bring publicity to the position.
The Redskins also released center Jimmy Jaye Wells of Wisconsin-Superior and running back Frank Collins, who hurt a knee two weeks ago ... The roster was reduced to 73 players, 13 over the limit of 60 the Redskins must reach by bext Tuesday . . . In terms of NFL experience, Curtis was first on the team. Now the remarkable Ken Houston and Diron Talbert, both entering their 13th season, have seniority . . . Tackle Greg Dubinetz remains hospitalized with a foot infection . . . . Denver is expecting a crowd well in excess of 60.000 for Saturday night's exhibition game, meaning another good payday for the Redskins . . . Fullback Don Testerman, hobbled by shoulder and back ailments, is practicing again. He needs a good showing against the Broncos to make up for his lost time . . . Play of the day: a halfback option pass Tony Green threw to Terry Anderson, catching the defense by surprise. CAPTION: Picture 1, Redskin Coach Jack Pardee rides his bicycle around the campus; Picture 2, one of the customary drills finds receivers working against linebackers and safety men in passing practice; Picture 3, some players with their ever present playbooks stroll from the dining hall toward their dormitory; Picture 4, In the chow line Kicker Mark Moseley and linebacker, Brad Dusek load their bowls at the salad bar, a popular feature of training camp cuisine, by Richard Darcey -- The Washington Post; Picture 5, Linebacker Mike Curtis: the end, after 14 years? By Richard Darcey -- The Washington Post