The gloomy afternoon reflected the attitude of many Redskin players who showed up yesterday for what they had hoped would be a productive initial workout on the second day of the NFL strike.
"I don't see this being settled in less than a month and that's going to put the season in jeopardy," said linebacker Neal Olkewicz after the 45-minute half-speed practice at South Lakes High School in Reston. "It's difficult to be too optimistic at this point."
No one was talking bravely about a quick settlement. Instead, nearly everyone thought that after this week many players would be returning home, trying to find jobs.
"Guys have to worry about putting bread on the table," said quarterback Joe Theismann, who directed the offensive part of yesterday's practice. "The owners better realize that everyone is serious about this. If they don't, they are making a bad mistake. Just this outpouring today should show how unified we are."
Thirty-six of the 49 Redskins on the active roster worked out. Some, like player representative Mark Murphy, were out of town on business. Others, like Joe Lavender and John Riggins, have injuries.
"I'll stay in town as long as the defensive line stays around," tackle Dave Butz said. "But after this week, it's going to be harder and harder to have a team workout. It will be the responsibility of everyone to have individual workouts. But after a week and a half, you start losing an edge, your conditioning isn't as good. Then it's harder to come right back and play."
Center Jeff Bostic: "None of this is a profitable situation for anyone, the fans, the players or the owners. Hopefully, that will sink in and we can get this settled. But, the important thing for us is that we have to remain a team, whether we play or strike."
Olkewicz: "Guys have been around here for a long time, some since training camp started, so they'll use now as free time to get out of here and rest. I don't think all of this has sunk in yet, but by Sunday it'll hit everyone."
Tuesday, the first day of the strike, was the players' normal day off. Yesterday, they normally would have been at Redskin Park, practicing about the same time they showed up at South Lakes. That's when they got their first taste of reality.
Instead of well-groomed fields and quality equipment at Redskin Park, they worked out on a muddy field with three footballs and no pads or helmets. With scores of schoolchildren surrounding the field, the Redskins quickly realized they would not get much accomplished.
"You worry that when you step somewhere, some little thing will get in the way and you'll step on them," said Butz, a 300-pounder. "If we are going to get anything out of these workouts, we have to do things differently.
"But I think they are useful. The coaches may not be here and we may not have the equipment we need, but we've all been around long enough to at least go through some productive drills."
"It feels funny not practicing at Redskin Park," tackle Joe Jacoby said, "but it will feel even funnier not playing Sunday. But Tuesday was when it really hit me we were on strike. I went over to the park and they had everything locked up, all the equipment. I guess they didn't want anyone borrowing what belongs to the team."
No players were at the park yesterday. None of the Redskins reported for the weekly morning meetings even though the union did not set up picket lines. That's how confident they were the team would remain unified, at least for the present.
"You'd wish that both sides were at least talking," said kicker Mark Moseley. "That would get you encouraged. The players are really serious, no doubt about it. They'll stay out as long as it takes, even if it means a financial sacrifice.
"People sometimes don't understand that this is our livelihood. We just don't show up on Sundays and play games. We work hard all week and we want to be compensated correctly for that work."
Theismann, who crossed the picket lines the last time the union struck (1974), has lived up to his training camp pledge to abide by the wishes of a majority of his teammates, which meant he would walk out. Not only is he on strike; he's also become very outspoken about the way management has handled negotiations.
"The best thing the owners could do," he said, "is to lock Jack Donlan (the owners' negotiator) out of the room and bring in some people who want to get this settled. Otherwise, nothing is ever going to happen."