The Washington Redskins received their Super Bowl rings in a private ceremony under a red and white circus tent at Redskin Park yesterday.
General Manager Bobby Beathard said the Redskins have received something else, too: a letter detailing a contract counterproposal from Howard Slusher, the agent representing Jeris White, the team's unsigned 10-year cornerback.
Beathard would not discuss the specifics of Slusher's proposal, but said the letter was found in a pile of mail that had accumulated during his recent vacation. This was the first communication between the two sides since Beathard sent the Redskins' contract offer nearly two months ago.
White, who lives in Florida, surprised some team members by being among the 40 players in attendance at yesterday's ceremony. It was held nearly six months after the Redskins' 27-17 victory over Miami in Super Bowl XVII and two days before rookies and selected veterans are due to report to training camp at Carlisle, Pa..
Asked about his contract situation yesterday, White said, "Now, you know there is no sense talking to me. Why? Because talking to the press is just not my nature."
Then he hopped into tight end Rick Walker's Mercedes and the two drove off.
There is some doubt that White and the Redskins will drive off together in contractual agreement in the near future. The Redskins have said they have already made their best offer to White, 30, who had a base salary of $185,000 last season, fourth-highest on the team. Both sides appear to be digging their cleats in, readying for White's second holdout as a Redskin. He held out four weeks before the 1981 season.
Beathard said he did not discuss contract matters with White yesterday.
"The way Jeris wants it handled is strictly between Howard and me," Beathard said. Slusher, who is based in Southern California, has not returned phone calls concerning White for the past month.
For the most part, yesterday was a festive occasion. Beathard said the team has reached an agreement in principle with rookie quarterback Babe Laufenberg of Indiana, so the number of Redskins yet to reach a contract agreement was reduced to three (White and running backs Otis Wonsley and Wilbur Jackson).
Among the players present were guard Fred Dean, who has since moved on to the Tampa Bay Bandits of the U.S. Football League, and cornerback Joe Lavender and tight end Rich Caster, both now retired.
Fullback John Riggins was not in attendance, and neither was quarterback Joe Theismann, who is in Indiana because of the death of his father-in-law. Theismann's father picked up his ring.
"I heard about this Super Bowl ring once that was being sold down in a pawnshop in Texas," said kicker Mark Moseley. "I can't understand how something like that happens because in our career, this ring represents the top. You can't do any better than this.
"I'll tell you, this ring may end up in a gutter," Moseley said, looking at his diamond-filled, 14-karat dab of glory. "But if it does, I'll still be wearing it."