Out of necessity rather than desire, the Washington Redskins coaches are considering the possibility of working around cornerback Jeris White.
"If he's not here by the reporting date (July 23)," Coach Joe Gibbs said today of White, "we will start making plans to play without him. We'll have to."
White, a 10-year veteran, is unsigned and expected by many team officials to hold out for the second time in three years.
Some ideas already have slid across the table during those daily meetings of the minds among Redskins coaches, should White's no-news-is-bad-news situation continue. Among the latest possibilities is to move Tony Peters, the Redskins' all-pro strong safety, to White's left cornerback position.
"Tony has played cornerback before," Gibbs said. "We worked him at cornerback during the minicamp (in May). We have great depth at safety, too, with (reserves) like Curtis Jordan and Greg Williams and Ken Coffey."
On the surface, this idea has enough intrigue and temptation to raise Redskin eyebrows, if not Redskin goose bumps. It would allow Washington to slowly break in cornerback Darrell Green, its top draft pick from Texas A&I. It also would keep players with some professional experience at both of these positions.
"And you love to have experience at the corners. Young guys get picked on right away and it forces their learning process," said Richie Petitbon, defensive coordinator.
"I've always considered myself a team player, so if it became necessary to move to cornerback, I'd do it. I played cornerback for three games in '79, so I don't think the move would be a problem," Peters said from his Virginia home.
"But moving to cornerback would likely keep me out of the Pro Bowl this year and that would cost me $30,000 to $40,000 a year in incentives and bonuses. Bobby (Beathard, Redskins general manager) and I would have to agree on a few things before I made the move."
"I think Tony Peters is the best strong safety in the league," said Petitbon. "Not only would a move (to cornerback) hurt Tony, but it would hurt the team. He is so good at the position he plays.
"It would be a move of desperation . . . If Jeris is not here by the second preseason game (Aug. 12), I'd say we would have to look at some options: we could maybe trade for a veteran, move Tony Peters over or something else."
With the chance that White might duplicate--or even hold out longer than his four-week holdout prior to the 1981 season (he reported Aug. 23 that year), the Redskins are preparing for the worst.
Today, Greg Jones, rookie free agent from Alcorn State who impressed coaches during May, moved his quick steps and potential from running back to cornerback.
Gibbs said about Jones, "He's got so much athletic ability . . . We need him more at cornerback than at running back."
Gibbs listed other possibilities. He said Jordan, a seven-year veteran who used to be a starting cornerback for Tampa Bay, might get a chance at White's spot. However, Jordan is noted more for durability than speed.
Gibbs noted both Green and LeCharls McDaniel, third-year reserve, will get their chances.
Though there is some doubt about Green's 5-foot-8, 170-pound frame, there is no doubting his speed.
"He stumbled for the first 10-15 yards when he ran the 40 at minicamp," said Peters, "and he still finished with a (team-best) 4.3. That's the sign of a great athlete."
After he signed last month, Green's agent said that his client would make the Pro Bowl this year, as a cornerback and a punt returner, given the chance.
"I can vouch for that," Green said. "I think I can make the Pro Bowl this year . . . When a receiver is out there, he is not taller than me. We're the same size. If I'm in the right position, he's not going to catch the ball."
In a voice backed by nine NFL seasons, Peters concludes, "The ideal situation would be either for Jeris White in uniform, or have Darrell Green come through."
The Redskins today signed rookie quarterback Babe Laufenberg, rookie running back Richard Williams, cornerback Leo Gray, and defensive end Ken Brown . . . Several more veterans have reported, including Coffey and offensive lineman Don Laster.