John Riggins, Lemar Parrish and Joe Lavender did not make yesterday's annual Redskin Welcome Home Luncheon but they were present in spirit -- and in a series of running gags.
Everyone from emcees Frank Herzog and Sam Huff to team owner Jack Kent Cooke took some swipes at the AWOL trio. Cooke called them the "Exodus Gang" and Herzog awarded a bogus door prize -- expense-paid trips to all the team's away games -- to a "J. Riggins." Cooke was the main speaker in the absence of the team's president, Edward Bennett Williams, who was in Georgetown University Hospital with what Cooke termed "A bad stomach problem." A hospital spokesman said that Williams was released yesterday.
"He is in good health," the spokesman said.
Cooke, in an entertaining speech, said:
Williams and his former coach, George Allen, got along well, "just like Jimmy Carter and Edward Kennedy," Cooke said he and Williams did not fire Allen. "He just drifted away and that's a fact."
He probably should send an agent to talk to Riggins "or a psychiatrist or both. But serously, I regret sincerely John's decision (to retire) -- for his sake, for his teammates and for the Redskin fans."
He believes the Redskins "have the best team in the NFL. I believe we had the best team in the NFL in 1979."
He thanked Williams for his "stewardship" in taking care of the Redskins for "some 17 years" while Cooke lived in California.
Cooke said so many Redskins have their own TV shows and own restaurants "that I don't know if I should ask them to pass the ball or reserve a table."
Then turning to quarterback Joe Theismann and his bleach-blond hair, Cooke quipped: "One day he looked like a Notre Dame quarterback, the next like Mary Pickford.
"I didn't know whether to give him a football or ask him to dance."
It wasn't Theismann's day. Earlier in the program, Mark Moseley, 1979 co-MVP with the quarterback, said he was happy to see the Redskin Alumni Association "honor my holder. You don't see that every day."
Theismann holds Moseley's field goal attempts.