The Washington Redskins changed offensive messagers Saturday night in their exhibition opener against the Baltimore Colts giving that duty to their tight ends instead of the wide receivers, as in Coach Jack Pardee's first two seasons.
This certainly is not a shattering development, but the reason for it reflects Pardee's anxiety to get Phil DuBois and Grady Richardson as much playing time as possible this exhibitionseason.
Pardee is well pleased with his tightens. Starter Don Warren, DuBois and Richardson are the only ones in camp now. But only Warren has any degree of NFL experience at the position, and all three are second-year pros.
The coach is not sure the change in messengers will be permanent, that possibility depending on what happens inthe final three exhibition games.
"At least in the preseason we'll keepdoing that," Pardee said today following the club's first practice since the 13-3 victory over the Colts. "That way we can get them in.
"Without exception, second-year players come back and know more about the game, things they were oblivious to as arookie. Things start filtering in a whole lot better. They know enough nowto use their minds as well as their ability."
DuBois, a college fullback who made the team last season as a free agent, knows exactly what Pardee is saying.
"The game takes a while to get into,"he said. "I got a lot of stuff to you're trying to learn the system. You're more worried about learning the plays than learning what you have to do.
"You're sitting there and they call aplay in the huddle and you go up to the line and you're kinda baffled about what you're supposed to do. But, in your second year, you pretty much know the system, and when a play is called, you just go do it. You don't have to think about it. So you can get off the ball faster."
"Players keep learning more and more each year, but the improvement between the first and second years is the most dramatic," Pardee said.
Of course, DuBois' status here is much different this season.
"Last year I was worried about making the team," said the 6-foot-2 DeBois. "This year I'm worried about playing. I never felt real secure last season."
In fact, he was cut during the seasonafter an injury to since-traded Danny Buggs necessitated the Redskinsjuggle their roster to have enough healthy wide receivers.
"At that point," DuBois said, "it hit me how unstable things were."
However, Pardee feels his tight-end situation now is more stable than it was at this stage last year, even thoughthe Redskins then had the veteran Jean Fugett, who never was a favorite of the Pardee-Bobby Beathard regime and played out his option. Fugett was not signed by another team.
"We're a little more reliable and dependable than last year going in." Pardee said, "Last year Fugett was the only one who had played and he had been hurt so much and hadn't been able to work out.
"We didn't know that much about Warren. We had drafted him, but he hadn't performed and we didn't know how quicklyhe could come around and play. He stepped right in and did good, but we didn't know that at the time we started." s
Last year, DuBois said, the Redskins began camp with many uncertainties and many players looking over their shoulders at the prospect of a major overhaul. There is tranquility and confidence this time around.
"You know as well as I do during last year's camp we had the older people thinking it was going to be a rebuildingseason," DuBois said. "But after the type of season we had last year, I think everybody has in their minds that there's no doubt we can win.
"Confidence is the biggest thing we have going for us right now, plus playing Dallas the first game really helps. It makes for a much more exciting camp when you have something tolook forwad to."
DuBois and Warren were teammates for two years at San Diego State, Warren starting their senior year at tight end and DuBois at fullback. Beathard had shown interest in DuBoisprior to 1979, but the player said he figured his Redskin chances evaporated when the general manager drafted Warren.
However, Beathard invited him to camp and he made the team the way most rookies do, by excelling on the special teams.
Warren and DuBois are good friends, roommates (along with running back Buddy Hardeman) during the season, andnow they are competitors for the same job.
"I try not to think about the competition part of it," DuBois said. "But it is there. We're competing for a jobfor a number of years. But I don't think that stands in either of our ways.As far as I'm concerned it's not going to upset our friendship any."
For now, DuBois hopes to play impressively enough to make the move to tight-end messengers permanent.
"They're hoping I'll be able to liveup to doing that," he said. "I'm really hoping that. That's why this exhibition season is really important for me, anyway."
Cornerback Joe Lavender, who has a touch of intestinal flu, was given permission to report back last night, according to Pardee . . . Brad Dusek started to jog again following a hamstring injury, but Pardee says it is unlikely the linebacker will play next Monday in Cleveland . . . Jack Shrawder, a free agent defensive lineman, hobbled to the training room today with an ankle injury . . . Pardee said the experiment that moved Rich Milot from outside linebacker to backup middlelinebacker should be considered permanent . . . Of today's practice, Pardee said: "It's a good one to get behind us. It was one of the least spirited workouts we've had, which is expected coming off a game and a day off."