His Redskin teammates call him "Dream" but this season has been more like a nightmare for Washington tight end Jean Fugett.
After a fast start that included three touchdown passes in the first two games, he has not caught a pass of any kind the last four contests.
After working more diligently than many Redskin officials thought possible in training camp to rehabilitate an ailing knee, he now is slowed by an injury to his other knee, which might need an offseason operation.
After entering this option year of his $135,000 annually contract with great expectations for a standout season, he is second string, alternating with rookie starter Don Warren.
"Disappointed? Yes, of course I'd like to be doing better," Fugett said. "When the team wins, fine. Whey they lose, you look at what you did and try to see how you could have contributed more."
On a club desperate for more offense, a strong finish by the former Pro Bowl performer would be a tremendous boost. But the knee still bothers him and Warren is getting better every week. It's as though he is being phased out, although Coach Jack Pardee says that is not really the case.
"The knee hurts his quickness," Pardee said, "and a tight end has to have his quickness to get away from the line of scrimmage and avoid the (defensive) end and the linebackers.
"Jean has worked hard, he still is working, no complaint there. But there still is some swelling when he works out. It's not like last year, when he couldn't practice because of the knee.
"It would help for him to come on. It would be an asset. We keep throwing to him and we keep using him. Lots of times, because of his past, he attracts extra coverage and that's one reason he might not see as many passes."
There is a kind of armed truce this season between the club and Fugett, an outspoken critic of Pardee last year. Neither will comment on the contract situation, except to admit there are no present negotiations.
Nor apparently will there be. Sources close to both the team and the player say that Fugett is not likely to return, nor do the Redskins want him back. That is one reason Warren was drafted, so he could spend a year developing while Fugett played out his option.
"Thank goodness for Don Warren," Pardee said yesterday. "He has developed faster than we could have anticipated. He's getting better all the time. With Jean hurting, we would have been in trouble without him."
Said one source: "As soon as this season is over, that's it between them. And I don't think either will be sorry to go their own way."
With only 10 catches this year and those bad knees, Fugett's bargaining power seems diminished. But yesterday, he remained confident there is still a place for him in the National Football League.
"I think I can play one or two more years," he said. "I'm sure some team will want me. The big plus is that if I can't get what I want to be paid, then I don't have to play. I'm one year away from finishing (law) school, so I have an alternative.
"If, theoretically, I were to need an operation, it would be a minor cartilage thing, not ligament surgery. I'll be able to come back from it and run off a 4.7 or 4.8 40.
"They'd have to look at it this way: Here is a guy only 28 with eight years experience, in good shape, smart, he knows a lot about football, he's been on something like five playoff teams in eight years and been to the Pro Bowl and knows how to get open in the end zone.
"With the right situation on the right team, I could be very helpful in winning games. Inside the 20, you won't find many tight ends who are going to score more touchdowns.
"We've been more run-oriented this year, they've wanted me to block and I've worked on it. My grade has been about 80 percent every week and I'm proud of that. But I'd still like to think of myself as a pass catcher."
He denied that his skills have deteriorated or that teams might shy from him if he plays out his option with a second club, Dallas being the first.
"I don't see much change in my abilities," he said, acknowledging that his critics say he doesn't push himself hard enough to make full use of his talent. "My knee is almost as good as it was when I left training camp and I'm ready to contribute. I have a heel bruise that is bothering me more than the knee, but it's amazing, on Sunday, nothing bothers you for 60 minutes.
"I don't think other teams will view me playing out my option again in any kind of light. They might look at it like I can't be had and that I'll make strong decisions on my own and, if I'm wrong, I'll go the poor house regretting it.
"Playing out my option with Dallas was the best thing I've done in my life. My parents can see me play every game, I love Washington and I got a 10 percent raise last year, which almost keeps me up with inflation."
Fugett, the Redskins' player representative, has not endeared himself to management fullfilling the duties of that position. He also is outspoken, which is another way not to win friends in the front office.
This year, however, he has remained in the background, even though he admitted yesterday he thinks he should be playing more.
"Sure, I've been slowed down with the knee but I'm at a point now where I'm just about as good as I can be. Every player wants to be a full-time starter, especially if you have been one before and shown you can do the job."
Between them, Warren and Fugett have caught 22 passes. In his three previous seasons with Washington, Fugett has pulled in 27, 36 and 25 passes, 18 for touchdowns. Entering this season, he had averaged a touchdown for every 4.9 receptions.
"But there is more to it than touchdowns," said one source. "You have to be able to block and work at it at mid-field, too. There is more than glory involved."
Said Fugett: "I do what they tell me to do. I'm flexible. They wanted me lighter this year so I'm eight pounds lighter. I still can get open and I can catch the ball. I'm sure of that." l
Lemar Parrish took part in some of the drills yesterday and Pardee hoped the cornerback would be able to participate more today . . . Pardee said Clarence Harmon most likely would handle Buddy Hardeman's kick returning chores, with backup help from Ike Forte, unless newcomer Dennis Law seems comfortable enough to take over by Sunday against St. Louis . . . The Redskins gave a one-day tryout to former Giant Bobby Hammond, just-waived halfback and kick returner. "We've played enough against him to respect him," Pardee said.