Washington Redskins running back John Riggins will talk to the Michigan Panthers of the U.S. Football League about playing in the new league this season, Jim Spavital, the general manager of the Panthers, said yesterday.
Spavital said he talked by telephone to Riggins, who was at home in Lawrence, Kan., and that Riggins said he was interested in talking and would be back in touch within a day or two.
"He said he wanted to rest at home for a day or two before getting together," said Spavital, who was Riggins' backfield coach in 1975 when Riggins gained 1,000 yards with the New York Jets. "He should be calling me in a day or two to say when he's coming in."
Reached in Kansas, Riggins would only say, "I have no comment."
Spavital said his contact with Riggins was initiated by a man who called him and said he was Riggins' lawyer. "He asked if we would be interested in talking and I said we would." Spavital declined to identify Riggins' lawyer.
Riggins, who gained 166 yards and was named most valuable player in the Super Bowl last month, became a free agent at the end of the season. His 1982 Redskins contract called for a salary of $330,000.
Asked if he was prepared to make Riggins an offer that is competitive with that figure, Spavital said only that "we want to talk to John about his future in football and the USFL." Spavital said the Panthers have acquired negotiating rights to Riggins from the Boston Breakers, who held them under USFL rules.
Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard said yesterday he plans to meet with Riggins next week concerning a contract with the Redskins. Beathard said he's confident Riggins will sign with the Redskins next year.
In another USFL-related development, Richard Bennett, the lawyer for three other Redskins free agents, said there have been no new developments since he has had "general discussions" with the USFL concerning return specialist Mike Nelms and linebackers Neal Olkewicz and Rich Milot.
"We're exploring the possibilities. Obviously for any players wanting to play in the USFL this season a decision will have to be made soon, certainly by the end of next week," said Bennett. The USFL season opens March 6.