John Riggins said today he no longer wants to renegotiate his contract with the Washington Redskins. Instead, he said he probably will decide within the next five days if he wants to rejoin the team based on whether "I want to play football or not anymore. The contract is no longer an issue."
In another development involving a Redskin holdout, the club is on the verge of reaching an agreement with cornerback Jeris White. White, who was obtained by the Redskins in a trade with Tampa Bay for Danny Buggs and a fourth-round draft choice, has not reported to camp while trying to renegotiate a new contract. He was on the option year of his Buccaneer pact.
General Manager Bobby Beathard said that White's agent, Howard Slusher, has accepted the terms of a Washington contract, but still had not received White's okay today. A phone call from Slusher to Beathard Thursday, the first contact between the parties in three weeks, broke the long negotiating stalemate.
Beathard said that a "small compromise" was involved but that the club had not agreed to match White's demand for a $140,000 a year contract. "But until Jeris agrees, I'm not convinced we've signed him," Beathard said.
Riggins, speaking from his home in Lawrence, Kan., also revealed that he has twice informed the Redskins by letter that he has retired from the game.
"In my mind," he said, "I have retired up to this point." But he admitted he didn't think the club is prepared as yet to acknowledge he is retired.
Riggins, who walked out of camp July 27, had asked the Redskins to change the 1981 option year of his $300,000 contract to a one-year $500,000 guaranteed pact.
But he says now that the team's refusal to negotiate "has closed the door" on that demand. "If I change my mind," he said (and return), it's because I want to play football and the hell with anything else." But he added that the possibilities of his return "are remote," at least for this season.
Riggins said the key issue right now is whether he can regain his "fervor" to play football.
"For some reason or another, I haven't been able to get in a football frame of mind this year," he said. "I could come back now and collect my $200,000, but I'd be doing them a disservice the way I feel.
"I have more integrity than that. I hope. I'm just not going to do that."
Riggins who has enrolled in a first-year economics class at the University of Kansas, said he originally left camp "because I didn't feel like playing anymore and I wanted to retire. But I said if they give me more money maybe I won't retire. Maybe the money will pick me up.
"I thought more money would help out. A new contract is like a new baby being born. It represents a revitalization, life to come. It's a good feeling, it could pick me up.
"I figured maybe the Redskins could try to help me out. But maybe I was wrong to ask them to help me solve my problem, so I am taking them off the hook."
He added: "If I do come back, there will be no new contract signed, no extension, nothing. Nor will there be any compensation. I will be back under the same contract that I've always been under.
"I have to find out within myself if I really want to play."
Riggins said the time to change his mind and return "is down to a very few days. I'd want to come back in the next four or five days.
"I'd be expected to play in the Dallas game. To do that, I'd have to come in pretty soon. Least, I figure they might want to use me for a few plays against Dallas."
Riggins didn't indicate that these latest revelations in his holdout had anything to do with the trade the Redskins made Thursday for fullback Wilbur Jackson.
Instead, he said the trade made him feel better "on my end. I think they will be shielded against being caught shorthanded now. I think the Redskins now are little more comfortable with the acquisition of Wilbur Jackson."
He also reiterated the possibility that he could sit out this season and then return in 1981. He first mentioned that option in an interview in Friday's edition of The Washington Post.
"If the game is exciting to me again, then I'll give it a shot again," he said. "I just hope I'm not burning any bridges with the Redskins."
The feeling among Redskin players today appeared to be that Riggins would return. Over the past week, Riggins' teammates seemed resigned that he would retire, but the trade for Jackson evidently has rekindled hope among them.
Riggins appeared to be wavering more than in past days about coming back. He kept talking about returning, and about how he still hadn't shut the door. But he also repeatedly mentioned the letters he had sent the club informing it he had retired.
He said the first was a mailgram sent on July 31 telling the Redskins he was resigning his "post as fullback" effective 1 p.m. on July 27. After Washington did not respond, he sent a certified letter Aug. 7 to Beathard repeating his decision.
He said the only correspondence he has received from the team was a letter telling him they "had the power to put me on a (not-reporting-to-camp) list that would make me inactive."
If Riggins does sit out, the matter of determining if he is officially retired becomes crucial. The club owes him $800,000 in deferred payments, to be distributed in eight annual allotments of $100,000 each. But those checks don't start until 30 days after it is recognized by the league that he has officially retired.
Meanwhile, Riggins says he will start his economics class Monday. "It's a four-hour class in beginning economics. It will teach me how to save some money. But let me point out that I can withdraw as late as two weeks into the academic year and still get my $135 in fees back."
Riggins laughed. "I guess I've been trying to practice economics these last few weeks. Only I couldn't teach the Redskins a damn thing."