Five and a half months after John Riggins ran 43 yards off the left side and into the California sunset, guaranteeing their first NFL championship in 40 years, the Washington Redskins will open training camp today at Carlisle, Pa.
"The momentum is here," guard Russ Grimm said recently. The Redskins' Super Bowl rings are also here now, filled with 17 diamonds and presented to the players Tuesday at Redskin Park.
Rookies and selected veterans are due to report to Dickinson College in Carlisle today. They will get physicals today and workouts will begin tomorrow. Some of the veterans expected to report early are reserve quarterbacks Tom Owen and Bob Holly, offensive lineman Don Laster and tight end Mike Williams. The rest are due July 23.
The last time the Redskins had a world championship to defend was in 1943, when a quarterback named Sammy Baugh, making an astronomical $20,000 per year, led them to their second straight title game against the Chicago Bears. But the Bears won that time, 41-21.
Last week, defensive end Dexter Manley sat at Redskin Park next to his brand-new BMW, a product of $70,000 worth of playoff money each Redskin earned last year in the NFL's spoils system.
"Just another object," Manley said, smiling and wagging his finger at the front bumper.
"Some people are still saying that last year was a fluke. They say it was because of the strike, and because of this and that. Well, winning it again this year will clear all of that up."
Then, looking serious, Manley added, "People say when you win the Super Bowl, there are a lot of memories. Well, I don't remember anything."
Coach Joe Gibbs, plenty aware of the trouble recent Super Bowl champions have had defending their title, doesn't mind such a perspective.
"Two years ago, we started out the (regular) season 0-5. Last year, we were 0-4 in the exhibition season . . . (The players) have been through the hard times and they don't want to go back to that," Gibbs said.
"We had a great team feeling (last year) and that doesn't happen very often. We have to try and see if we can get that back this year."
As always, there are several points and positions of concern as the Redskins enter training camp. This year, those concerns involve, among other spots, running back and left cornerback.
Although the Redskins run a one-back offense, they cannot depend on only one back--namely, Riggins, ever brutish and dependable--for 40 carries a game, 16 games a year.
As Wilbur Jackson considers retirement and Clarence Harmon faces a recent indictment on a charge of cocaine possession, the job of assisting Riggins seems to fit with Joe Washington, returning from surgery on both knees, and three rookies the Redskins speak of highly: Richard Williams (second round from Memphis State), Marcus Gilbert (ninth round from Texas Christian) and Greg Jones (free agent from Alcorn State).
"I think our running back situation is kind of in a state of flux. We could be very strong or very weakened, depending on if Joe Washington gets healthy, and if some of the young players realize the potential we think they have," Gibbs said.
General Manager Bobby Beathard is a bit more concise: "We just hope everything works out with Joe Washington. That's the key."
If Jeris White, the unsigned 10-year veteran cornerback, carries out his expected holdout, the tests at starting left cornerback in Carlisle will confront Darrell Green, the first-round pick from Texas A&I, and LeCharls McDaniel, a third-year reserve. Vernon Dean, a second-year player, starts at right cornerback.
"If Jeris decides he's not going to sign," said Gibbs, "we'll just have to make due. Last year, we were concerned about the corner position. But we had a great year from Vernon Dean. It's something you can't predict. That's the kind of thing you have got to have happen to have a successful season."
Two years worth of Carlisle camps later, Gibbs added, "Every team has some positions you are worried about, some positions you're not worried about. Lots of times, you get to camp and those positions change."