Despite an impressive showing by Redskin runners in the opening preseason game against Baltimore, Coach Jack Pardee admitted yesterday the team has not ruled out trading for another back before the end of training camp.
But, he added, he did not feel any sense of urgency to make a deal and would be willing "to go into the season with what we have right now. I think they can help us win."
Pardee said the whole situation "could be taken care of if John Riggins would come back. That would alleviate everything. But we can't wait on him. We have to make our plans with what we have and just hope for the best." h
Riggins' contract holdout, which has kept him out of camp since July 27, has created a dilemma. The Redskins would rather not trade for another back, but apparently are not convinced they have a satisfactory backup to fullback Clarence Harmon should Riggins retire, as he has threatened.
If the Redskins do trade, most likely they will acquire a player to relieve Harmon, not start in his place. The club already thinks enough of Harmon to have considered using him as the starting halfback, and he has done nothing at fullback in camp to decrease that esteem.
Pardee is afraid, however, that Harmon will not do as well if pressed into playing full time. The coach would much prefer to give Harmon continual relief, using the substitution pattern employed last year when Riggins and Harmon shared the fullback spot.
"If he has to play three of every three downs, then we are going to see decreasing efficiency from him," Pardee said of Harmon. "Ideally, we would like to play him two of every three downs sometimes and maybe just one of three other times.
"Giving him that amount of rest over a 16-game schedule, I don't think you would see any decrease in his performance. He'd be rested and a threat every time he was in. That's something we found out last year. Both John and Clarence benefited from not having to be in there all the time."
Playing just half the game Saturday night, Harmon showed he has become quicker turning the corner, picking up 47 yards on nine carries. He ran hard and fast and proved he still is a good receiver, catching three passes for 11 yards.
Buddy Hardeman, who is playing ahead of last year's starting halfback, Benny Malone, was just as impressive. He is stronger and 10 pounds heavier and runs with more power. Running inside and out, he gained 38 yards on eight carries.
Just as important to Pardee, reserve halfbacks Bobby Hammond (37 yards on four attempts) and Ike Forte (11 yards on two) also performed well. One of them, or Malone, has to be good enough to give Hardeman frequent rests, probably on second down, so he can be used on third down passing situations.
Harmon's main backup, Don Testerman, helped his cause with a solid effort. He had one fine pass reception, dancing around two Colts to pick up a first down, and was consistent on short yardage runs. One question seems to be whether he can avoid injury for an entire season. He also is not a good practice player.
Rookie Ricky Claitt, the third-string fullback, has another problem, endurance. Despite his 36 yards gained, Pardee said he was concerned "that he had to come out after every two or three plays. There might come a time when we would want him to stay in. He can't be coming out all the time like that."
Pardee said the Redskins would never turn down a chance to upgrade the fullback position, "but we feel the same way about any spot on the team. We can live with the current situation. Everyone just has to keep playing well. By Working them all in, they can go out and go full blast every time they are in."
No matter who winds up in the backfield rotation, they will benefit from what appears to be an improved offensive line, which opened up gaping holes that allowed the Redskins to run for 204 yards against the Colts.
The Redskins stayed with basic running plays most of the night in the 13-3 triumph. Pardee was particularly pleased that, despite not having the power of Riggins, the team made a first down on 73 percent of its third downs, and every time only a few yards were needed.
Pardee also said:
Quarterbacks Joe Theismann and Kim McQuilken had good games despite dropped passes. "Joe was reading plays well and Kim keeps playing better as the rust goes away," he said. "His work is encouraging."
Kicker Mark Moseley already is in midseason form. Moseley booted a 52-yard field goal, almost made a 56-yarder and put most of his kickoffs deep into the end zone.
Punter Mike Connell helped himself in his duel with veteran Mike Bragg with a 46-yard kick. Bragg got off a 44-yarder that benefited from a good roll. "Mike Connell really got his foot into one kick," Pardee said.
Kick returner Mike Nelms "is a live punt returner, and he played safety well. He wants that ball. I've never seen a return man who catches as many in practice. He's always working." Nelms, making his debut as a Redskin, brought back four punts for 23 yards, the longest gain 14.
No. 1 draft choice Art Monk should benefit from fumbling his only catch of the night. "Art got his feet wet, he'll realize now he has to protect that ball." Monk had another reception nullified by a penalty.
The Redskin training camp is now winding down, with this week the last full one at Carlisle. They don't have another exhibition game until next Monday, then they leave for Redskin Park Aug. 22.
"This really is the end of camp from a work standpoint," Pardee said. "We've got a lot left to do, we have to go over a lot of game situations, but I'm pleased with the progress we are making."