Clarence Harmon, the Washington Redskins veteran running back, faces some frightening numbers.
The Redskins likely will keep five running backs on the roster, said Don Breaux, running backs coach. Even if the league votes Tuesday afternoon to raise rosters from 45 players to 49, it still seems likely that the Redskins will keep five running backs, putting Harmon in danger of being cut.
"I would say, right now, four guys are pretty set--John Riggins, Joe Washington, Nick Giaquinto and Otis Wonsley," Breaux said today. "I'd say Reggie Evans (a 23-year-old who spent his rookie season last year on injured reserve) is ahead for the fifth spot."
The absence of his name makes these frightening times for Harmon, a 27-year-old, seven-year veteran whom teammates call "Clutch" because he rushed for 484 yards, caught 54 passes for 534 yards and scored eight touchdowns in 1980. Harmon is also one of eight active Redskins who were playing in 1977, the end of the George Allen regime.
Harmon faces other frightening numbers, too: a third-degree felony charge of cocaine possession in Texarkana, Tex., that carries a sentence of no less than two years and a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Louis Raffaelli, Texarkana district attorney and prosecutor in the case, has said the case will be disposed of by the second week of September.
"No, I really don't want to talk about anything," Harmon said today. "Not about football, not about anything. Just talk to the coaches."
Redskins coaches say Harmon's tenuous spot on the roster does not relate to the drug charge. "We'll pick the best 45 or 49 players," Coach Joe Gibbs said.
Gibbs added: "You have to evaluate a player based on the total person. You have to consider everything, all the pluses and all the minuses. As a coach, that's the only way you can sleep at night."
Redskins coaches say that Harmon, a solid 5-feet-11, 209 pounds, has not had a productive training camp. Not as a running back, where he gained 168 yards on 38 carries last season. Not on special teams, where he provided rare versatility last year.
"I have to say that the (cocaine) charge has affected Clarence's concentration somewhat," Breaux said. "He's not as sharp as he was in the past. You see it in the little things: techniques, depth of routes, all the things that make a difference.
"He is usually a very intense practice player with super concentration. Last year, he was coming off an (shoulder) injury and he put in a tremendous effort to prepare himself. He was first in everything. He set the tone for the other backs.
"I think this year he's been affected. We've talked about it. I don't know if I can help him. I want to be his friend about it . . . We're all just so unsure about things with him. We're uncertain about when his trial will come up. We're uncertain about the possibilities of whether he might be suspended. We're uncertain about a lot of things."
Even though rookie running backs Richard Williams (second-round pick) and Marcus Gilbert (ninth-round pick) have been mostly mundane so far, Breaux said, "Because we have some age at running back, it would be nice to maybe keep one of the young guys."
In this age of football specialization, Harmon excels in third-down passing situations. It was Harmon's pass-catching talents that earned him a starting spot for eight games in 1977, when he was a free agent rookie from Mississippi State.
In seven years, though, times have changed, faces have changed.
"If Joe Washington is healthy," said Breaux, speaking of another running back who specializes in third-down passing situations, "then Clarence isn't as important to us."
Today, Gibbs said, "Joe Washington looks great."
One day before NFL rosters must be cut to 60 players, the Redskins trimmed their roster to 72 by cutting eight players, placing three more on injured reserve and putting tight end Mike Williams, recovering from knee surgery, on the physically unable to perform list. If he is not activated prior to the Sept. 5 season opener, Williams cannot be activated until the seventh game.
Those players cut today were punters Steve Hoffman and Dave Smigelsky, kicker Kevin Seibel, center Jay Bequette, wide receiver Larry James, cornerback Jesse Anthony, offensive tackle Wallace Browne and defensive end Charles Riggins.
Rookie strong safety Vic Vines (sprained left knee) was placed on injured reserve, as were wide receiver Rodney Goosby (strained right hamstring) and defensive tackle Bruce Radford (structural damage in his right knee).
A vote will be taken among management officials of each of the league's 28 teams Tuesday in St. Louis to determine if rosters will be raised from 45 to 49 players. The Redskins, who favor the 49-man roster, will be represented by General Manager Bobby Beathard.
If the expanded 49-player roster is chosen (21 votes are required for such a change), then teams might have to trim rosters only to 70 players Tuesday, rather than 60, according to Jan Van Duser, NFL director of operations.
The Redskins prepared several contingency cut lists, preparing for possible roster cuts Tuesday to either 70, 65 or 60 players.
The Redskins' current 72-player roster includes strong safety Tony Peters, arrested two weeks ago on cocaine trafficking charges. Peters is on a paid leave of absence, preparing his legal defense.
The Redskins filed for a roster exemption for Peters today, checking with the league office. Van Duser said that Peters likely will be put on a special reserve list Tuesday, with Commissioner Pete Rozelle's permission. Van Duser said the move technically can't be made until Tuesday, because teams have no roster limitations before that time.