Dennis Law was at Redskin Park hardly an hour yesterday before he was on the practice field, shagging punts.
This swift wide receiver and kick returner is eager to play now, unlike 11 weeks ago when the Redskins obtained him in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals. Instead of reporting here then, he retired.
"Personal problems" was the way Law put it yesterday after his first workout as a Redskin. "This is the first time in my life I've low-keyed something. Thank God I'm here . . . I told my wife I needed some time to think out things and get my life straight."
The second-year man out of East Tennessee State went to work in Atlanta in marketing research. He also managed to keep in shape. He was sitting at home in Atlanta Monday night, expecting to go to Oakland yesterday and probably join the Raiders, when Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard called.
It was the second time this season Beathard had phoned Law, summoning him to Washington. The first was five weeks ago, after the Atlanta game, when Danny Buggs and Ricky Thompson were injured. Law got a tryout then, but the Redskins signed rookie Chirs DeFranco, who knew the pass routes and could be used in an emergency.
This time there was no tryout. Law was added to the roster and Buddy Hardeman, a running back and superb kick returner, was put on injured reserve. His jaw was broken in Sunday's 38-7 loss at Pittsburgh.
"What we need," said Beathard, "is a guy to return kicks. Plus, he's got the tools to be a heck of a receiver."
Law may be the fastest player on the team, a 4.5-man at 40 yards. At Cincinnati, he was the Bengals' primary punt returner, the single safety who ran back 25 punts for 106 yards.
Redskin Coach Jack Pardee said he is undecided whether Law will play Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"Right now, Clarence (Harmon) and Ike (Forte) will do the kick handling until we feel he (Law) has been here long enough to get his legs and get used to handling the ball under pressure, and those things which you have to practice no matter how long you've done it.
"We're not going to put him in a situation he's not ready to handle, because we have other guys who can do it."
Said Law: "The coaches feel like if they need me, I can go right in and return punts immediately . . . I just need to catch a few balls each day and get the hang of it again.'
Law considers his strengths his speed, agility and ability to read the blocking, a major asset for a punt returner under the new rules that forbid blocking below the waist.
Meanwhile, another player getting extra duty was quarterback Joe Theismann, who stayed on the field after practice with the running backs and tight ends in order to sharpen the timing on pass routes. Theismann plans to do the same thing today with his wide receivers.
The Redskins have scored only five touchdowns the last four games and have not reached their offensive goal of 20 points a game in the past seven. A theory making the rounds is that defenses finally have caught onto what the Redskins want to do.
Theismann, Pardee and offensive coordinator Joe Walton all discounted that notion, contending that, for the most part, the Redskin offense is beating itself.
"If we couldn't move the football at all," said Walton, "then I'd be concerned. But that's not the factor at all. We've developed a running game and we've thrown well enough . . . Execution is a large part of it."
Added Pardee, "I'm not down on them . . . Whoever gets the call has to make the play. We have to catch the ball. We led the league in third-down conversions last week, so we must be doing something right."
"We're a possession team, a control offense," Theismann said. "You get the turnover and you capitalize on it. That's the way you get your big scores run up.
We've done things people didn't think we could do -- things we thought we always could do. And we got into a couple football games where we didn't execute properly and its cost us. The (first) Eagle game they got the big lead. There's nothing you can do about that. Pittsburgh, that's one of those games that just comes up. But you look at the Saints and the Houston games we lost. We were in them all the way. And we won the others.
"So when you analyze us, there's nothing to be embarrassed about and nothing really to make excuses about. We're doing the things we have to do. We have to do them with a little more intensity and a little bit harder."
Cornerback Lemar Parrish, who has bruised ribs, was the only player not to practice yesterday. Trainer Bubba Tyer said the team has a couple of aircushion vests and may try one on Parrish today . . . Because of Parrish's injury, Pardee said Tony Peters probably will concentrate more on cornerback than safety this week.