The Redskins, whom Coach Jack Pardee called "a better tea? already than last year," broke training camp today with both good and bad news concerning injuries.
Starting guard Dan Nugent, who had been sidelined with a degenerative disk in his lower back, said today he got through his first week of rehabilitation so well that "I hope maybe I can play a little against Cleveland" Aug. 25, the Redskins' final exhibition game.
But reserve guard Jim Harlan, who has a degenerative disk in his upper spine, was moved off the active roster and placed on injured reserve, where he must stay until after two league games. He must clear waivers before the Redskins can activate him.
And kicker Mark Moseley, the club's only point scorer in the preseason with five field goals, probably will bypass the Atlanta game Saturday to rest a slightly pulled thigh muscle, sustained last week at Denver. Nick Lowery, former St. Alban's and Dartmouth athlete who was activated today after being picked off waivers, will do the kicking.
Nugent is fighting strong odds in his attempt to play this season. Doctors told him that he has only a 50-50 chance of rehabilitating his back enough to avoid surgery.
"I'm taking it step by step and not pushing it," said Nugent, who became a starter last season. "But it feels better every day. I've started to run and I hope to put on the pads and begin light contact early in the week.
"I know my odds aren't the greatest. But I feel good about it. Maybe when I start hitting, my back will act up again, I don't know.But swimming this week has helped it and after running a half-mile today, it feels good.
"Fortunately for me, this was a mild disk problem or otherwise I would have let them operate. By going into traction (for two weeks), it gave me a chance."
Nugent will begin light contact work early next week. He was hurt in February, lifting weights while recovering from a knee operation in January. He reinjured the back in May, went through the first week of training camp trying to overcome the discomfort, and finally stopped practicing the second week of camp.
At that time, doctors who examined him feared he would need immediate surgery. But the injury was not as serious as first thought.
"This is a career decision," he said. "I want to play this season and help this team because we can make the playoffs. But I'd also like to play a lot of more years. If it starts hurting again, we'll just have to sit down with the doctors and see if they should operate."
Moseley was hurt on the opening kickoff against Denver. The injury is not serious but he and Pardee don't want to take any chances this close to opening game. Lowery, who took Harlan's post on the roster, tried out last year with the Jets and Patriots and was cut this preseason by the Bengals.
Moseley has kicked five field goals in the two preseason games, while the offense has failed to score a touchdown.
Pardee, not demonstrative by nature, was relatively bubbling with enthusiasm today about the five week camp, considered by most veterans one of their hardest ever.
"I'm glad camp is over," Pardee said. "Now we can get onto the next stage. But I think we got everything accomplished that we wanted to."
"We spent a lot of time on the running game and on running drills and I think we can run the ball. We needed to improve our short-yardage offense and defense, and I think we have.
"We worked, force-fed and pushed some new players to play. If they are needed, other than on special teams, I think they can do it, especially the new linebackers and tight ends. And we helped ourselves on the offensive line."
Pardee chuckled, then added: "We are about where we want to be, but we are not the Super Bowl champs and we don't have a pat hand.
"We got good response from the players. This was a relatively problem free camp. We were able to concentrate on football and not have too many nonfootball problems like contracts that upset things. We could concentrate on being a better football team."
The Redskins leave camp feeling they are stronger, quicker and younger. They have groomed a fine group of youngsters, such as linebackers Monte Coleman and Rich Milot, tight ends Don Warren and Phil DuBois, and cornerback Ray Waddy. And they are sure veterans such as George Starke, Brad Dusek, Terry Hermeling and John Riggins are ready for good seasons.
There are still problems, mainly with the offense. While Pardee has kept the preseason attack ultraconservative, concentrating mostly on running, the Redskins' failure to score a touchdown has bothered the players.
Pardee would like improved quarterbacking and receiving before the season starts. He believes the offensive line is far stronger than last year, thanks in part to the improvement of young guard Jeff Williams. He is convinced that the defense will be stronger against the run than in 1978.
And, so far, he is pleased with how some new starters have fit in: Free safety Mark Murphy for Jake Scott, linebacker Pete Wysocki for Chris Hanburger, defensive end Joe Jones for Ron McDole, halfback Benny Malone for Mike Thomas and Williams for Nugent.
In another move today, the Redskins dropped third-string quarterback Gary Valbuena and picked up ex-Bronco Fred Mortensen, a 6-2, 195-pound free agent from Arizona State.