Coy Bacon, who was was waived by the Redskins yesterday, said he was not bitter, but claimed the move was an indication "that the panic button has been pushed at Redskin Park."
Bacon, the 14-year former Pro Bowl defensive end, was released by Coach Joe Gibbs yesterday for repeated violations of team rules, the last of which came Thursday, when Bacon was late for a meeting.
The problems with Bacon this week have overshadowed another significant development at Redskin Park. Despite the return of John Riggins from a knee injury, Gibbs said that Wilbur Jackson would start against the Eagles.
Gibbs said Jackson, who gained 104 yards last week at St. Louis, "played too well last week to keep him out of the starting lineup. We are still finding out who the producers are for this team, and Wilbur showed last week that he is one of them.
"John is healthy and he'll play a lot. They both will. John can give Wilbur a breather when he gets tired. They can both help us."
"In a way, I'm glad this has happened," said Bacon. "My problems with Gibbs started from Day 1 of training camp, so it's not that surprising. But I'm not bitter or anything at anyone.
"The main thing is they should be worried about winning some football games, and not worrying about me being a few minutes late for a team meeting. I haven't been late on purpose. (Sometimes) I was sick and on medication that made me sleepy and I overslept the start of the meetings."
Gibbs acknowledged that Bacon's departure significantly weakens the Redskins' already spotty pass rush, especially for Sunday's game at Philadelphia. Bacon had three of the Washington's four sacks this season.
"But I just reached a point where I felt it was better for the team to make this decision," Gibbs said. "The team is the most important thing and it had become a situation where I felt we would be better off without him."
Bacon's place in the starting lineup Sunday will be taken by Mat Mendenhall, who is better than Bacon against the run but not nearly as accomplished a pass rusher. Cornerback Trent Bryant, who was waived earlier in the week, replaced Bacon on the roster.
Of the Jackson move, Gibbs said,"every time since the preseason that we've used Wilbur, he's done something. You have to be impressed by that. He's a good player and he figures prominently in our thinking and our strategy."
Riggins missed the St. Louis game with a knee injury. While he watched from the sideline, Jackson utilized a new one-back, two-tight end offensive formation to pick up 90 yards during the first half. When the Redskins fell behind in the second, Jackson got only four more carries.
In the first two games, Riggins, who sat out last season over a contract dispute, carried only 14 times for 53 yards (3.8 yards a carry) before bruising his knee in the first half against the Giants.
"John is going to contribute," Gibbs said. "I think he was running well in that (Giant) game before he got hurt. Wilbur was our most productive back in the preseason, but in the first two games, he had done a lot of special teams work and we also didn't run the ball that much. When he got his chance, I thought he did a heck of a job. You don't bench a guy after the way he ran."
Meanwhile, Redskin players appeared to accept the decision to waive Bacon, who had been late for or missed at least five meetings and practices, according to team sources.
"Coy was popular with everyone, we all liked him," safety Mark Murphy said. "No one was pushing to get him out of here. I think we all hope that Coy can straighten things out now. That would be more important to him than anything that might happen to his football career.
"You couldn't ask for a nicer guy than Coy, but I guess rules are rules. No one was surprised by what happened. But it took a lot of guts on the coach's part to cut the best pass rusher just before the Eagle game."
Tackle Dave Butz called Bacon "a good competitor, but there isn't a person on this team who will say this isn't Coy's own fault. He has problems and now maybe he'll get them straightened out. He was given every chance in the world. We are trying to build a unit here, and everybody has to be together."
Gibbs said he tried to reason with Bacon about his tardiness. "He'd get better and then he'd slip," Gibbs said. "Sure, I'm disappointed. I like Coy and I wanted to keep him around. We are all convinced he didn't do anything on purpose, to hurt anyone."
Bacon said he didn't "want to make any trouble this season. I've been trying to shake this 'troublemaker' tag for years. I mean, being late (to a meeting) has no bearing on me playing ball on Sunday. They are picking on me."
How the Redskins will generate a pass rush without Bacon remains to be seen. Defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon said the team would depend more on youngsters Dexter Manley and Mike Clark. And he said the rush would get better as the linebackers got healthier and after tackle Wilbur Young is activated from the injured reserve list next week.
"When everyone is healthy and we have the right combination of personnel, things will perk up," Petitbon said. "I'd like to have three sacks a game, and we aren't getting that. But I think you'll see an improvement as the weeks go on."