Pro Bowl running back Chuck Muncie, traded recently by the New Orleans Saints to the San Diego Chargers, says he's delighted with his new assignment and he'll give it all he's got.
"It's like a dream come true," said Muncie, the No. 1 draft choice for the Saints in 1976. "It's pretty rare to go from an 0-4 team to a 4-0 team."
Muncie, who had asked to be traded, says he doesn't deserve the reputation he has acquired around the NFL as a potential troublemaker and a player with a record of missing team meetings and practices. "It's a bum rap," said Muncie. "I may have been late a couple of times for a team meeting, but I've never missed a practice."
On Monday, Washington Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard, in desperate need of a running game, declared that Muncie was not the answer to the Redskins' problems of offense.
"Muncie may be the biggest problem in the NFL," said Beathard. "He has a reputation as a guy who has a $250,000 contract and doesn't come to practices or team meetings.
"New Orleans gave up a problem. They never contacted us to say he was available, and if they had, we'd have said, 'Not interested.' We don't need any problems like that. People don't give up real good players unless there's some problem involved."
Beathard's statement brought an immediate rebuke from Ed Garvey, executive director of the National Football League Players Association.
"The outburst was gratuitous at best," said Garvey." "In our contract with the league, we have an agreement whenever possible not to say negative things about each other. It's not a suspension of the First Amendment or anything like that, it's just an agreement not to say negative things whenever possible.
"Now Muncie is branded as a troublemaker for anyone who reads Beathard's quotes. It wasn't necessary. It can't possibly help the Redskins."
In San Diego, Muncie said, "When they called me in and said I was going to San Diego, I couldn't get there fast enough," he said. "I think I can make a contribution to their running game. It's going to be good, playing with a contender this year. We may even have a chance at the Super Bowl."
One of only three undefeated teams in the NFL, San Diego is leading the Western Division of the AFC. New Orleans, one of three teams in the NFL without a victory, occupies last place in the NFC's Western Division.
"We had an opportunity to gain a Pro Bowl running back," said San Diego Coach Don Coryell, who gave up an undisclosed draft choice for Muncie. "We think Chuck is one of the first running backs in the game, and we are happy to have him. We feel that with a chance of environment to a winning football team, he'll be a great player. It's a great opportunity for him to come in and start over again and have a great year."
Saint management was said to have been disenchanted with Muncie for giving less than 100 percent effort and attendance at practices and for erratic performances in games. Fines levied against Muncie for a variety of infractions were said to supply the team with fried chicken, a Thursday night tradition in the Saint's organization.
Muncie's total of 1,198 yards last year on 238 carries for an average of five yards per carry was the highest of his career and the highest in the history of the Saint franchise. He caught 40 passes for a total of 308 yards and an average of 7.7 yards.
In his career, the 6-foot-3, 233-pound back has rushed for 3,386 yards.