Charles Jackson, the National Football League's main lecturer on drug abuse, told Redskins players today the league's greatest fear this season is that a player who is addicted to drugs may be forced to attempt to adversely influence a game's outcome.
Jackson later confirmed that the league fears a player "may reach a point where, through force or suggestion, he is asked to compromise a game, either subtly or overtly.
"We discussed with the players the compromising of the game in terms of its integrity. We know drug and gambling interests are merging and that lines of credit in reality are akin to borrowing money from loan sharks. We also told them that the federal government has informed us that they will be stepping up enforcement of drug laws and that they will prosecute violators."
In the past, Jackson tried to get across his drug message to the Redskins by joking about linebacker Pete Wysocki, who did a Jackson imitation.
Today, Jackson's talk didn't include any Wysocki jokes or any of what the players refer to as his "shuckin' and jivin' street talk." It didn't include much humor at all, for that matter.
Instead, Jackson talked to the Redskins in a stern, serious tone about the league's drug problems, which have been the subject of almost daily media reports for the last six weeks. Jackson's speech was held in private, but its main contents were repeated by listeners.
Jackson also handed out a two-page supplement to the NFL Drug Program, information already in the players' possession. The supplement gave names of eight different persons who could be contacted for help with a drug problem, including former Viking Carl Eller, now a league drug consultant.
But the supplement also emphasized to the players that their standard players' contract already contained two clauses that relate strongly to the drug situation.
One clause states that if a player "uses or provides other players with stimulants or other drugs," he may be subject to suspension or fine. But the supplement emphasized that "a player will not be disciplined or released by his club merely for the use of drugs, provided he seeks the assistance available under the (medical assistance) program . . . "
The other clause states that if a player fails to "establish or maintain his excellent physical condition to the satisfaction of the club physician, or make full and complete disclosure and good-faith responses to the club physican, then the club may terminate" the contract.
Jackson, who is the league's assistant director of security and drug abuse, said that those clauses "have been in the standard players contract. We have pulled them out and held them up this year for emphasis, that's all."
This is the eighth year Jackson has delivered his drug, alcohol and security talk. But even he wondered if anyone was listening to him.
"It wasn't Charlie's fault," quarterback Joe Theismann said. "He has a job, he tells us the rules of the game. If we don't abide by them, it's our fault. When there wasn't a drug problem made public, everyone would listen to him and laugh, laugh, laugh.
"Now some jerk goes public and everything has changed. Everyone listens now."
That's what Jackson found out today, and what he also discovered at two prior club stops this summer. "The players are much more attentive," he said. "The atmosphere is more subdued. They sense a degree of urgency with the league's drug problem . . . The significant thing is, had players been listening perceptively before, a lot of the problems now would not be happening."
"He (Jackson) is being made to look like a scapegoat," said free safety Mark Murphy. "Drugs have been a problem for a lot of years and now all of a sudden everything is coming out and they are looking at him and saying 'Hey, what the hell have you been doing?' He's been saying that for a long time." Jackson: "My approach now is direct. No nonsense. But hopefully I do it with a sense of personal application."
Jackson repeatedly told the players that the NFL has a problem and that the players and league must solve it collectively. He also called the Redskins "a relatively clean team" and said that the vast majority of "clean guys" shouldn't be brought down by those who may have problems. "Essentially, drug abuse is something we aren't going to eliminate," Jackson said later. "We are trying to bring about meaningful control of its use."
Murphy: "Charlie means well, but I don't think there will be any headway with this problem as long as the treatment program is attached to management. Players just aren't sure they can trust management when they come forward and say they are addicted or they are an alcoholic. The league needs an independent program run jointly with the (NFL) players' association."
The Redskins recently became affliated with a drug-treatment program at Georgetown University, through which addicted players will be funneled.
The Redskins have decided that guard Russ Grimm and center Ron Saul will practice only once a day to avoid too much early pressure on their ailing knees. That decision came in the midst of more minor injuries to some key players, including receiver Charlie Brown and tight end Clint Didier.
"Russ was getting some swelling on the knee that was operated on last year," said Joe Bugel, the offensive line coach. "And we don't want to push Ron's knees that hard. We decided that both would be better served if we let them practice once a day and then hold them out of the other practice and let them work with the trainers."
Brown had some internal discomfort and was held out of this morning's workout. Didier, a candidate for a tight end spot, has shin splints and did not practice. Tackle Mark May is bothered by a bad bruise on his left shoulder, but worked out.
Defensive tackle Darryl Grant injured his foot during tonight's intrasquad scrimmage. He was taken to Carlisle Hospital for X-rays.
Veteran tight end Rich Caster's ailing knee has improved enough so that he may be able to take contact work. "It feels good, but I want to check with Dr. (Stan) Lavine first," he said. "If he says go, I'll start. If he says, no, I'll back off."
Reports out of Buffalo indicate that cornerback Lemar Parrish has back problems and has not practiced this week . . . Coy Bacon, the ex-Redskin defensive end, apparently has begun a professional wrestling career.