John Riggins, the Redskins' AWOL fullback, said today that he wants the team to guarantee payment of his contract for the 1981 season, the option year of his current agreement with the team. And, he added, "That's only part of the iceberg."
Standing shirtless and in jeans on the porch of his home located outside the Lawrence city limits, Riggins told The Washington Post he decided to leave camp in Carlisle, Pa., nine days ago -- 48 hours after reporting -- "because I decided the minuses of being there outweighed the pulses.
"Right now anything that's going to happen is up to the Redskins," Riggins said in his first interview since leaving training camp. "if there are going to be any decisions or announcements, they'll be the ones that will make them. I've spoken with Bobby Beathard (Redskin general manager) on the phone. He knows exactly what the situation is, exactly what it is I want in order to come back.
"It's a very simple situation," Riggins said in his first interview since leaving training camp. "Either we'll get together and work this thing out and I'll play, or we won't work it out and I won't play."
Riggins did not talk, however, like a man who considers retirement imminent.
At 31, he is entering the last season of a five-year contract he signed with the Redskins in 1976. Beyond this season he has an option year.
As reported earlier, part of Riggins' dispute with the Redskins is over his demand that he be guaranteed payment for that option year even if he should be hurt this year, decide to retire or fail to make the team next summer.
But Riggins assertion today that the guarantee is only a part of the problem seems to indicate that he is also asking for a raise in his $300,000 per year salary.
The Redskins have said they will not renegotiate the contract.
"I've thought about retirement at different times going all the way back to 1973 when I was with the (New York) Jets," Riggins said. "But, I'm not sitting here now thinking about what I'm going to do if I don't play this season.
"This is a day-to-day situation. That's the way I'm taking it, anyway. I haven't set any deadlines or anything like that. The team knows where to find me when it wants to."
Beathard, who last spoke with Riggins Thursday, has said he will not speak again to the fullback until he returns to camp. Riggins says he will not return to camp until the Redskins make a move.
According to the Redskins, Riggins is being fined $500 for each day he is out of camp. As of today, negotiations appear to be at an impasse.
Riggins has stayed away from a training camp twice before. In 1973, while with the Jets, he avoided camp until just before the first game of the season because of a contract dispute. Last year Riggins left camp for one day, also in a contract dispute.
He would be starting his 10th NFL season. Last season Riggins ran for a career-high 1,153 years, giving him a total of 6,822 ninth on the all-time NFL rushing list.
The controversial running back's one-story white house sits on a gravel road about three miles from the campus of the University of Kansas, where he played college football. Also on the property are a small barn, a garage and what appears to be a chicken coop. Ducks can be seen in the driveway, along with Riggins' yellow pickup truck and his motorcycle.
Since returning home, Riggins has spent most of his time around the house with his wife and two children, except for several fishing trips.
He would not be drawn into a discussion of his contract. "Anything I say isn't going to accomplish anything," he said. "The Redskins know how I feel. Now it's up to them."
He never referred to himself as retired, and gave the clear impression that he wants to play football this year -- on his terms or, at least, close to them.
"I've talked to a couple of the guys since I left," he said, " -- Ronnie (Saul) and Hern (Terry Hermeling). I haven't really talked about this (the contract dispute) with them, though. I just asked them how long the night meetings have been lasting. I know how long practice is but those meetings can last a long time at night."
"I miss the guys," he added. "I miss the camaraderie of being around my friends. But I think the best thing for me right now is to be here, not there.
While he doesn't miss the drudgery of training camp, Riggins said, he has never minded it, either.
"I've never been afraid of working hard," he said. "I don't like things like long meetings, but they're part of my job. I know a lot of people who work 14 hours a day and get paid a lot less than football players, so hard work doesn't bother me.
"This is between the Redskins and me. We have to work it out if we can. That's really all there is to say."