John Riggins, saying "I'm bored, broke and I'm back," indicated yesterday he is ready to rejoin the Washington Redskins for what could be his final season as a player.
Riggins, adding he missed the "little kiddie atmosphere of football" after sitting out the 1980 season in a contract dispute, showed up at Redskin Park yesterday for a three-day minicamp. Declining all requests for individual interviews, the 31-year-old fullback held one press conference following a morning workout.
"This might be my last year, I don't know," he said. "We'll have to see what happens. I'm taking one year at a time. My last game was against Dallas (in December 1979) and it doesn't seem like I've been out a whole year.There are a lot of people out here and I have to work to get my old job back.
"I'm starting off clean heare and (Redskin Coach) Joe Gibbs is a fine fellow. I'm ready to play again. I'm either in my option year or I have one year plus the option year to go -- that's the attitude I'm taking. My case goes to arbitration next week so nothing has changed since last year. We'll let the arbitrator decide who was right and who was wrong. Let the chips fall where they may."
Riggins, who will be 32 on Aug. 4, left camp last July when Washington refused to meet his demand that the option year of his contract be changed to a one-year, $500,000 guaranteed contract. The Redskins then placed Riggins on the "left camp -- retired" list.
Should Riggins lose the arbitration, he will be paid $300,000 this year and a minimum of $330,000 on his option year. If he wins, he will be paid for his last season -- $300,000 --- and be in his option year now. The option year salary, a minimum of $330,000, is negotiable.
"A decision will be made. I felt I was doing the right thing by coming to this camp," Riggins said. "I didn't come here to influence the arbitrator. I want to play."
Riggins looked as if he could gain 100 yards rushing tomorrow. At 11:30 a.m., three minutes after the Redskins had finished their calisthenics, Riggins came out of the locker room and trotted onto the field to join his teammates.
Very few heads turned. In fact, a few minutes passed before Joe Washington, obtained recently from Baltimore, said something to Riggins and shook his hand. Shortly afterward, as Riggins went through drills with the other backs, yells of "fresh legs" and "Big John" could be heard. Because Riggins is unfamiliar with Gibbs' new system, he was held out of the team scrimmages.
Riggins did run pass patterns with the other backs in the morning and afternoon, and also participated in a few plays in seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 noncontact scrimmages in the afternoon.
"I was familiar with a few things and got in a little work," Riggins said. "I'll just have to learn a little at the time."
Most of the Redskins declined to comment on Riggins' return. Said quarterback Joe Theismann, "I really don't want to say anything about that." Another said, "He's here, but will he stay?"
Riggins, who rushed for 1,153 yards in '79, looked to be in excellent condition. He weighed in at 234 pounds, somewhat heavier than he thought he was, but Riggins passed a team physical.
"I'm in the best condition I've ever been in at this time of the year," Riggins said. "But I thought I was under 230. I haven't done much -- a little lifting and some running. I'm tired of running. I got to get a new couch -- the old one has a large dip in it from sitting."
Both Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard and team doctor Standford Lavine, who examined Riggins yesterday, said the fullback was in "great shape."
"I've been examining him for six years and this is the best shape I've seen him in," Lavine said.
Gibbs said he was delighted with Riggins' return.
"Seeing John was a nice surprise," Gibbs said. "There's a lot of terminology to associate yourself with and by this being his first camp, he has a lot to digest. I'm glad he's here to get started. He looks good just standing there and I'm looking forward to working with him.
"He looks like he's in good shape, but I wasn't particularly watching him. I was looking at everyone. He ran the plays he felt comfortable with when his turn came. The others he just stood back and watched. On the plays he ran, I didn't notice anything specifically about him."
Riggins said it shouldn't take too long to pick up the new system.
"Football is football," he said. "Right now, my head is swimming, I'm not a boy wonder, you know.
"I didn't have any apprehension about coming back. A lot of the guys welcomed me back. I learned a lot not playing last year. I kept up with what the Redskins were doing. I think they were a lot better than their 6-10 record. But I'm not looking back on last year. I want to look ahead and make the most of the upcoming year."
Five veterans -- defensive linemen Dave Butz and Karl Lorch; offensive linemen George Starke and Terry Hermeling; and running back Wilbur Jackson did not attend. Gibbs said all had been given permission not to show up.
Defensive lineman Coy Bacon did not attend, but was not excused. Offensive tackle Mark May, the Redskins No 1 choice in the recent draft, was absent because he has not yet signed and his agent will not allow him to participate until he does.