This is Coy Bacon's 14th pro training camp. Some here believe it will be his last, at least with the Redskins.
But not the ever-loquacious Bacon, a man who rarely fails to express himself. Loudly.
Bacon had no sooner arrived at Dickinson College than he spotted a Redskin administrator.
"You've insulted me by bringing in all these guys to try to beat me out," Bacon said. "You've insulted me, but I still can play."
How many sacks is he going to get?
"Thirty," he said. "I'm going to get 30. I'm going to show you people that I can play."
Bacon refused yesterday to elaborate upon his goals for the season, or on anything else, for that matter.
"I'm not talking, I'm just playing. I'm here to play football," he said, stealing a line from his silent teammate, John Riggins.
Kidded that, being the old man (almost 38) on the team, he should have a came, Bacon shot back: "You keep the cane. I don't need it. I still can play."
Bacon will have most of five weeks to prove he is right and the Redskins wrong. There is no question that, with the addition of former Baltimore star Fred Cook, Bacon's roster spot is hardly secure. But neither is the club anxious to cut anyone who still has decent ability remaining, especially if Bacon could mean the difference in improving a struggling pass rush.
Even before Cook was broght in, Bacon's future was in question. Mat Mendenhall, last year's second-round pick who spent his rookie season on the injured reserve list, figures prominently in the team's plans as an early-down starter, with possibly Bacon or rookie Dexter Manley replacing him on passing situations.
That way, Bacon could concentrate on what he does best -- harassing passers -- while forgetting about the area that has always given him problems, stopping the run.
And, it was thought going into camp, if Manley kept developing as quickly as he had in earlier minicamps -- and he has -- then possibly there wouldn't be an opening left for Bacon.
The addition of Cook gives the Redskins more options and more hard decisions to make in the coming weeks. Defensive Coordinator Richie Petitbon and his line coach, Torgy Torgeson, have to settle on what players are going to play what positions, who will start and which six or seven of the nine athletes in serious contention will stay on the final roster. s
Of the nine, Bacon is one of the few who probably will be tried at only one spot, his familiar right end, where most of the great NFL pass rushers have played. Tackle Dave Butz is a fixture on the left side, but otherwise there will be plenty of maneuvering.
For example, Karl Lorch, the returning starter at left end, displayed a strong pass rush at the end of last season after moving inside, to tackle, on throwing situations. Wilbur Young, acquired from San Diego, has played both tackle and end in his pro career and will be tried here at both places. Manley has such a promising future that he'll be employed at both left and right end, in order to see where he'll be of the most value. Perry Brooks, like Young, can play either inside or outside, and Cook has spent his earlier pro career at left end, although he will receive a long look on the right side here.
"It's a jigsaw pussle right now," Petitbon said. "We've got enough good players to wind up with a pretty decent front line, better than last year's. Manley has looked good and Cook is a good addition.
"Coy? We'll give him a shot. Hey, he had 11 sacks last year, so it's not like he is coming off a bad season. He played pretty well last year. He wasn't that bad at all against the run.
"It just may be more beneficial for him if we use a lot of people, and keep everyone fresh. At his age, maybe he can't play full time anymore. Or maybe it would be better for the team to use him differently. But that's why we are here at camp, to find these things out. He's going to get a full shot, just like everyone else."
If Bacon had a different personality, perhaps he would find himself in a different situation right now. But his outspoken, abrasive nature never has endeared him to the Redskin hierarchy. Nor did his prolonged contract negotiations during the off-season endear him to Coach Joe Gibbs, who complained constantly about Bacon's failure to attend the minicamps.
But a veteran like Bacon, who never has been known for his practice dedication in the first place, hardly saw the need for going through a minicamp. He's at a point in his career where he's not about to change his playing methods, or worry about some new coaching staff coming in.
It's hard to argue with his track record. Since coming over from Cincinnati in a trade with Lemar Parrish, Bacon has led the Redskins three straight years in sacks. He had 12 in 1978, 15 in 1979 and 11 in 1980, when then-defensive coordinator Doc Urich thought he enjoyed one of the best seasons in his long career.
But Bacon angered Jack Pardee, last year's coach, when he criticized the club's defensive plans midway through the season, calling them too complicated and inhibiting. He suggested, very loudly, that the Redskins should return to basic tactics. Pardee chewed him out, but soon Washington also was playing simpler formations -- and the defense quickly improved.
Gibbs' campt is different from Pardee's, something Bacon found out quickly today during his first practice under the new head coach. Bacon was talking loudly during preworkout calesthenics and Gibbs, although not singling him out by name, firmly told the players he wanted them to concentrate and to cut out the horseplay and talk.
It's obvious now that if Bacon is to make this team, he'll do it on Gibbs' terms, not his own. And that may be the greatest test that Bacon has faced in his controversial career.