Coach Joe Gibbs turned to his San Diego connections yesterday to try to ease two glaring Redskin problems by obtaining reserve tight end Gregg McCrary and reserve wide receiver John Floyd from the Chargers.
Earlier in the day, Gibbs also placed Fred Dean and Ron Saul on injured reserve to leave Washington with one of the youngest groups of offensive linemen in recent NFL history.
The Redskins sent an undisclosed 1982 late-round pick, probably a l0th or 11th, to the Chargers, where Gibbs served as offensive coordinator the last two years. In return, they obtained McCrary, who was with Washington in 1978 for six games before being cut. Gibbs had been concerned all training camp about his tight ends behind starter Don Warren, and the club had been working for weeks to find help there.
Then, minutes before the 4 p.m. (EST) roster cutdown deadline, General Manager Bobby Beathard sent a late-round conditional 1983 selection, probably a 12th, to San Diego for Floyd, a third-year player from Northeast Louisiana who has caught 11 passes as a pro. The receivers had become a major concern this week after Gibbs studied films of Saturday's game against Baltimore, in which rookie Charlie Brown was hurt and none of the ends played well.
To make room for the ex-Chargers and to reduce their squad to the mandatory 50 players, the Redskins also released tight end Phil DuBois, running back Rickey Claitt, receiver Ken Harrison, punter Mike Kirkland and linebacker Dave Graf. And they placed linebackers Farley Bell and Quentin Lowry on injured reserve.
The Redskins now have only six linebackers, one short of what they had been expected to keep, although it is unlikely they will add another player. Rookie free agent Mel Kaufman, from Cal Poly, had a fine game against the Colts to win a roster spot and make Bell expendable, but the club still is woefully thin at this position as long as Brad Dusek (back) and Larry Kubin (knee) are undergoing rehabilitation.
McCrary, 29, who is 6 feet 2, 235 pounds, was selected in the fifth round of the 1975 draft by Atlanta out of nearby Clark College. He came to Washington in 1978 for an eighth-round choice, but did not catch a pass before being released over the protests of Beathard, who thought he was the best tight end on the team despite the presence of Jean Fugett and Reggie Haynes.
In 2 1/2 seasons with San Diego, McCrary caught 17 passes, three for touchdowns. Gibbs used him as a starter in 11 games last year, many times along with all-pro Kellen Winslow, since he blocked well enough to allow Winslow to be a wingback.
"He's a good athlete, he's had experience, he can block," Gibbs said. "And he knows our system. He did a good job for us last year out there and I think he can upgrade the position here." McCrary became expendable when rookie Eric Sievers, the former Maryland tight end, played impressively for the Chargers in the preseason.
Floyd, 24, who is 6-1 and 195, brings some size to the Redskins' receiving corps. Once a world-class runner, his pro career has been hindered by a slow recovery from a multiple fracture of his leg during his senior season at Northeast Louisiana.
"He's a real hard worker, a tough guy who catches the ball when he can get to it," Gibbs said. "I think his leg problems are over. He's got good speed and, again, I think he upgrades us."
Gibbs said he still isn't sure if he will carry four wide receivers and two tight ends or three wide receivers and three tight ends. Veteran Rick Walker is the other tight end in camp while Virgil Seay and Brown are the reserve wide receivers.
"We are treading on water about Charlie right now," Gibbs said. "We don't know if he'll be back in a week or as long as three. It complicates the problem."
Washington now has 10 offensive linemen, just two of whom are true veterans: tackle George Starke, who has been in the league nine years, and center Dan Peiffer, who has been around four years. Otherwise, the Redskins have five rookies -- Mark May, Russ Grimm, Darryl Grant, Joe Jacoby and Lee Spivey -- and three players -- Melvin Jones, Jeff Bostic and Jerry Scanlan -- who have little game experience.
At least eight, and possibly nine, of those linemen will survive the final roster cut to 45 on Monday. Barring injury, May, Jones and Bostic seem certain to start along with Starke and either Grimm or Scanlan, leaving Peiffer as the only experienced reserve on the squad, at least for now.
At this point last season, the starting line was comprised of all veterans: Starke and Terry Hermeling at tackle, Saul and Jeff Williams at guard and Bob Kuziel at center. And most of the reserves were experienced: Dean, Peiffer and Gary Anderson. Bostic was the lone rookie, and he made the team only because long-time kick snapper Ted Fritsch suddenly lost his touch.
None of the personnel decisions was unexpected, although the Redskins had hoped to keep Dean on the active roster through the final cuts. But an updated medical report indicated he would not be fully recovered from arm surgery until possibly November, when more than half the season would be over. Dean began camp as a starter in place of Saul until hurting his arm during a blocking drill. In order to rejoin the Redskins this season, Dean would have to clear waivers, something the Redskins would not risk trying.
Saul, who is recovering from minor knee surgery, started for the club since coming over in a 1976 trade with Houston. An 11-year veteran, he was demoted to second string before training camp began, then hurt his knee to eliminate any chance of making the roster.
"It was tough about Ronnie," Gibbs said. "I know what he has meant to the Redskin tradition all these years. I told him that I wanted him to be part of the team the rest of the year, to attend everything. We need him around."
Kirkland had been brought to training camp to compete for both the No. 3 quarterback spot and Mike Connell's punting position. Kirkland was removed from the quarterback picture midway through camp, and was outkicked by Connell during preseason games. Gibbs had said he wanted to keep Kirkland one more week, but roster maneuvers speeded up the timetable.
Claitt was an early-season 1980 rookie sensation after gaining 77 yards in game two against the Giants before blocking troubles against blitzes ultimately reduced his playing time. Then an unexpected strong showing by free agent Otis Wonsley this year, plus hemorrhoid problems that required an operation, caused his departure this summer.
Harrison came to the Redskins in 1980 as a free agent after three years with San Francisco. He caught nine passes for Washington, but has been hindered by injuries throughout his career, and during this training camp.
DuBois, a college teammate of Warren's at San Diego State, made the club in 1979 as a free agent, then started the opener last year against Dallas when Warren was injured. But he fractured ribs in that game and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. His size (225 pounds) and lack of consistency hurt his chances of making the team.
Bell was a sixth-round 1980 choice who quit the club early in training camp and sat out the year. He asked for another chance this summer and got off to a fast start before a shoulder injury contributed to a recent slump. Lowry, a free agent from Youngstown State, is considered a decent prospect by the Redskins, but has been slowed by thigh problems.