The Redskins returned home to a new bermuda-grass practice field yesterday, a $20,000 improvement some players raved about as the best such field in the NFL. But Benny Malone, the team's starting halfback last season, wasn't able to use it.
Malone and fullback Don Testerman were cut yesterday -- not a surprising development, since Malone had finished the Carlisle, Pa., portion of preseason training as the No. 4 halfback and Testerman's days became numbered when Washington obtained Wilbur Jackson last week.
A man who did get to use the new field was Jeris White, the cornerback obtained from the Tampa Bay Bucs on draft day. White ended a four-week holdout by signing a new three-year contract Sunday night and said, after his first Redskin workout, "If I wasn't happy I wouldn't be here. That's not me."
And Diron Talbert and Paul Smith, two veteran defensive tackles, must be wondering how much they'll use the new field since Perry Brooks, who started Saturday night's exhibition game against the Oakland Raiders, was running on the first team in yesterday's workouts.
Coach Jack Pardee said, "We want to test Perry out good. He did some awfully good things in the game Saturday and there are still some things he needs to work on. We'll be working him in more. What that means I don't know.We'll still use a lot of players, but you'll probably see him more than on a third-down passing situation."
Asked if Brooks -- whose strength, quickness and newly found discipline pleases Pardee -- had moved ahead of Talbert at right defensive tackle, the coach replied, "Not yet. But I'm not saying it couldn't happen."
The Redskins must cut eight more players by 4 p.m. today to reach this week's league limit of 50. Another five players must be cut Labor Day, following Friday's final exhibition game at Tampa Bay, to reach the regular season squad limit of 45.
In addition, White will not count in the squad size for up to two weeks and fullback John Riggins, who left Carlisle the second day of training camp, is carried in a special inactive category.
Since Brooks was coming along so well, Pardee was asked whether Smith or Talbert might be cut. He replied: "That's what I've hoped for -- tough decisions to make."
The first day back at Redskin Park also was the first day back in drills for right guard Jeff Williams and left linebacker Brad Dusek -- two starters who suffered leg injuries early in training camp.
Neither worked at full speed, but Pardee said he expected to have both available for duty Friday night in Tampa.
Pardee added that he did not expect starting middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz or reserve defensive back Tony Peters to recover quickly enough from injuries suffered against the Raiders to play against the Bucs. However, Pardee said, they should be ready for the Sept. 8 opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
Olkewicz strained a knee and Peters suffered a groin pull against Oakland. The only thing either player did yesterday was walk on the track around the finely manicured field that looks better than the fairways of some country clubs in these parts.
The Redskins also received some good news concerning Terry Hermeling, who was hospitalized the past two weeks for tests following a bout with some kind of intestinal flu. The tests were negative, Pardee said, and Hermeling was expected to be released from the hosptial either last night or this morning.
The release of Malone and Testerman came a day early because they had requested it -- in order to have a better shot at catching on somewhere else, Pardee said -- and because the Redskins had made up their minds early on those two, leaving the team with six running backs in camp.
A good showing by rookie Ricky Claitt Saturday night sealed Malone's fate. He did not play against the Raiders. But the indication that Malone did not figure in Washington's plans this season came in February, when the club gave him permission to try to make a deal for himself with another club. There were no takers.
In six previous NFL seasons, Malone gained 2,693 yards and fumbled only 10 times in 706 carries. He is considered an exceptional blocker and team player. But last year he gained only 472 yards on 176 rushes -- a 2.7 average.
"Benny still has a lot to offer," said Pardee. "He's a tough player. The biggest complaint (here) was that we'd like to have a few more yards out of that position."
"We watched him closely (at Carlisle)," said Offensive Coordinator Joe Walton. "The other guys were doing a little bit better."
Malone could not be reached for comment. A team official said the Arizona State product probably was driving to his home near Tempe.
White, the man who had been home in Sarasota, Fla., had dinner with Bobby Beathard, Redskin general manager, and Howard Slusher, White's agent, Sunday night. He would not talk about the terms of his contract.
He reportedly had been seeking $140,000 annually. Redskin sources have indicated that he signed for $115,000, close to what sources have called the team's original offer. White said he wouldn't be here if he were not satisfied.
"I'm not at liberty to talk about that (the contract)," he said. "Plus, my policy is I don't talk to the press . . . I guess I can sum it up for you all in this -- the man who fights for his ideals is the man who is alive.
"Everything came out okay for everybody involved, and I'm here. I just have to work."
White, a seven-year veteran, is a strong force man against the run and was expected to challenge Joe Lavender for the starting job at right cornerback during camp. Now he must learn the Redskins' terminology and probably will not be activated until just before the Cowboy game.
He participated in all drills yesterday and looked fairly sharp for his first time out. He made his presence known early to wide receiver Morris Owens, a teammate at both Miami and Tampa Bay, when he gave Owens a good hit in a seven-on-seven passing drill.
"I always stay in shape," White said. "That's just me. I wouldn't feel right if I didn't. I've been running since January, since the day after we played L. A. . . . I'm probably a little out of shape and my footwork isn't what it should be and the mental thing, I've lost that. You've got to lose something when you've missed four weeks of camp and three games."
But he has no doubts he'll be ready for Dallas.
"That's what I get paid to be -- is ready," he said. "If I've got to stay out extra, I'll stay out extra. If I have to stay in the classroom extra, I'll just stay in extra."