Some Redskins need constant care these next several months, strict supervision on and off the field. This is not because of any moral slippage, but to assure that the team has a fair chance against anyone other than the NFL Management Council in full battle garb.
Three exhibitions have shown the Redskins very competitive against playoff teams, when their regulars are healthy and alert. When even one of their linchpins, a John Riggins or Dave Butz, either of the two Joes, Theismann and Washington, Mike Nelms, Mark Murphy or one or two others is not available they self-destruct.
Perhaps never have the Redskins had two more contrasting sets of VIPS: several Very Important Players, but a duffle bag overflowing with Very Impotent Players. So area patriots are hereby mandated to:
* Keep anyone with even the slightest sniffle five miles from the above-mentioned heroes' homes.
* Allow them safe and swift conduct through all traffic.
* Mention no debts, large or small. Outstanding bar tabs, for instance, mortgage payments, or other trivial autumn distractions.
For the Redskins:
* Escort Riggins everywhere, somebody strong supporting each arm. Remember how he tripped and nearly fell while being introduced at the welcome home luncheon? Ron Saul would be ideal for this chore, since he evidently will not be doing much else.
* Insist that Mike Nelms fair-catch short, high punts even he cannot possibly return without losing at least one limb.
* Let Joe Washington change jersey numbers each week instead of each season, so opponents might not recognize him so quickly.
* Tell the offensive linemen to dedicate their every breath to Theismann's well being. Tell the blockers to strangle, maim, kick, gouge, even some illegal stuff if necessary, against rushers who have even the slightest chance of jolting Joe.
* Tell Theismann to give in willingly if one of the beasts does break through and grab him. Make him slide even sooner when his pocket gets torn or ripped and scrambles are necessary. Also, Joe, don't be too upset when officials rule you've been grasped just after you in fact have squirmed free. They're keeping you whole.
A Redskins game without Theismann would not be a pretty sight.
Last season it was clear that without Washington, Washington is New England. Without Theismann, the Redskins wouldn't even be the Federals. They'd be the post office.
This 0-3 Redskins exhibition season is alarming only for the astonishing lack of capable reserves. If the Redskins were a swimming pool, they'd have nothing deeper than three feet.
With the Redskins, there is no hope. Or so it seemed to the faithful when Tom Flick was dismissed last week, banned to Boston. Here, we had been told, was the young, bright, imaginative playoff light of the future when Theismann grew too old to complete more than business deals.
Coach Joe Gibbs had gushed so on draft day of '81, calling fourth-rounder Flick a better prospect than the more-heralded Neil Lomax, who became the Cardinals' starter late in his rookie season. All Redskins fans could do was trust -- and wait. They were more patient than Gibbs, it developed.
True, Flick's first official Redskins play ended in an Eagle touchdown last season. And it did appear he had trouble chewing gum and taking the snap from center. But even Theismann wasn't built in a day. And if all Flick fetched was a Patriots quarterback also going nowhere, why not get Tom Owen -- for some dime draft choice -- and keep grooming Flick?
"Some guys played real hard," Gibbs said after the Buffalo loss Friday. Lots of them played like the civilians they soon will become. If Gibbs says, as he must, that he'll have trouble cutting this team to the requisite 45 plus four, cynical fans can whittle it to 27 in a hurry.
The coach did not twinge when he said Washington suffered "a slight twinge in his knee," although he might have. When Washington went down, Riggins limped off and Butz left the field ailing, the Redskins, the government, the entire free world seemed about to collapse.
Washingtonians are like that. Anybody can run a country; where can the Redskins run this week without Washington and Riggins?
The even more-consuming question, of course, is: will there be a this week? The final round of exhibition games would be a tactically sound time for the players to show management their collective will, to strike. Murphy and the other player representatives will meet Monday in Chicago to plot strategy for contract negotiations going nowhere.
"We'll have to look each other in the eye and decide what to do," Murphy said. "Whatever we do will have to be league-wide."
Murphy has been the Redskin working hardest lately. Up before most in training camp and on the phone with union matters long before breakfast; staying current on bargaining developments when others are asleep between two-a-day workouts; collecting dues after the night meetings.
"It's a pleasure to go out and play the game," he said.
But not to, say, keep order in the ranks during that welcome-home affair when owner Jack Kent Cooke is playing verbal hardball.
"A lot of players were ready to walk out (while Cooke was speaking)," Murphy revealed. "But that wouldn't have been productive. Besides, I was encouraged by a lot of what he said (about the players deserving 'perhaps much more money and benefits'). I'm glad we didn't walk out, though. That would have alienated the fans even more."
The fans booed the Redskins and Bills lustily during that ritual pregame solidarity handshake, then came to realize it was more lively than anything else on the field before halftime.
Whatever pressure Murphy has felt so far, it probably only now is starting to perk. Nobody will be pampered during a strike.