The play is called "Dash-849-Bomb" and, for the time being, this will be the rank and serial number for the Washington Redskins' newest and fastest receiver, Calvin Saleem Muhammad.
With one quick acceleration Sunday at RFK Stadium, Muhammad left Dallas Cowboys cornerback Ron Fellows gasping for his defeated breath. Muhammad caught a pass from Joe Theismann near the Dallas 25 en route to an 80-yard touchdown play that produced a 24-7 third-quarter lead for the Redskins.
By game's end, the Redskins had a 34-14 victory and Muhammad had five catches for 104 yards. Quietly, he said, "I see myself fitting in here."
"For Calvin to jump in and do that was extraordinary," Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday, as he again breathed the rarified air that accompanies sole possession of first place in the NFC East Division. The Redskins (5-2) lead Dallas and St. Louis by one game and will play the Cardinals in Busch Stadium Sunday.
"Calvin is so smooth when he runs," General Manager Bobby Beathard said, "that his head doesn't even move."
Then, Gibbs paid the ultimate compliment to Muhammad, saying, "We have got to get him in the game." He smiled at the thought of having Art Monk, Charlie Brown and Muhammad in a three-wide-receiver formation.
The book of basics on Muhammad reads like this: raised in Jacksonville, he ran the 100 in 9.3 seconds in high school, placing him among elite runners such as Houston McTear and Johnny (Lam) Jones, he recalled; attended Texas Southern University, majoring in music; spent the 1980 season on the injury list of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League before joining the Oakland Raiders, who had selected him in the 12th round of the 1980 draft.
By that time, he had changed his name from Calvin Railey. "I became a Muslim and I wanted to be recognized as a Muslim. I became a Muslim in my freshman year, but I didn't change my name until my junior year," Muhammad, 25, said yesterday. "Saleem means one who maintains a peacefulness, not easily upset, and Muhammad means praiseworthy."
Muhammad has been with the Redskins for just 12 days. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Raiders in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 1985 draft. Gibbs asked Muhammad if he could report to the team with one day's notice. He packed a suitcase and reported the next day.
Most of the Redskins remember their first introduction to Muhammad. It happened last October when Raiders' wide receiver Cliff Branch pulled a hamstring while running 99 yards for a first-quarter touchdown in the Redskins' come-from-the-shadows 37-35 victory at RFK.
Muhammad was Branch's replacement. He caught five passes for 112 yards over the final three quarters, including two for touchdowns in the third quarter.
"I can't say I knew of him before that game," Gibbs said. However, Muhammad caught just eight more passes (none for touchdowns) the rest of the season.
Then, he suffered a broken bone in his shoulder during this preseason and was placed on the Raiders' injured reserve list. The injury occured in a noncontact drill, Muhammad said. "(Linebacker) Matt Millen decided he wanted to hit me from behind, so he did. That's the Raiders."
So Muhammad moped around on injured reserve, becoming "a little tired of waiting around when I knew I could play."
The Raiders, who employ a two-setback offense that requires fewer receivers than the Redskins' more varied sets, had Branch and Malcolm Barnwell as starting receivers.
"They also had Dokie Williams, and they think he's coming on now," said Beathard. "Then, they also had two kids who are like our Smurfs: Sam Seale and Cle Montgomery.
"So someone was available for the right price. All the other guys were playing and Calvin's a guy who was on IR -- I guess he was considered the least valuable."
Beathard said he contacted Al Davis, Raiders managing general partner, in the second week of the season. Beathard wanted Muhammad. Davis said he might be available, but that he first needed to talk to his coaches, Beathard recalled.
Conversation volleyed coast to coast for several weeks. The Redskins' desire to acquire Muhammad grew when Brown sprained his left ankle in a 20-0 victory over Philadelphia Sept. 30.
The Redskins' scouting staff scrutinized films of Muhammad, who is 5 feet 11, 180 pounds. "We saw the obvious," said Beathard, "the speed and the very good hands. We couldn't find one negative."
Beathard also discovered, "He's quiet and a very serious worker. Plus he plays three musical instruments."
The Raiders wanted a third-round draft pick in exchange for Muhammad. Beathard bargained, something he's very good at doing. Four days after Brown's injury, the Raiders traded Muhammad for a fourth-round pick.
"The Raiders were missing some draft picks . . . and they had extra receivers," Beathard said. "I don't believe they ever talked to anybody else about this. It was just a deal between me and Al."
"I was happy coming to a ball club that's classy and a winner," Muhammad said. "I'm just glad that it wasn't Buffalo."
He was glad to leave the Raiders, too. "I wasn't happy there and they got a feeling of that." Had he fallen into disfavor with Davis or any of the coaches? "No, they knew my ability was better (than other receivers)," Muhammad said. "But the Raiders are an organization where you have to fit in with their ways. With my personality, I didn't fit in. I'm kind of quiet."
Once Muhammad arrived, he said he went to an Italian restaurant with Theismann to talk over strategy. And Gibbs quickly deployed Muhammad into the crucial role in "Dash-849-Bomb."
Gibbs said the Redskins hadn't used the deep-throw variable of their Dash series since Brown made a leaping catch on a 48-yard play in the 51-7 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in a playoff game last season.
When Muhammad entered the game Sunday, Gibbs said he saw the Dallas cornerbacks back up from the line of scrimmage. They knew of his speed.
"(Dallas' defense) hadn't worked on the play -- it wasn't on their (opponent's plays) card. So they had a hard time preparing for it," Gibbs said.
"It was a compliment to our Dash package, really. We may try six or seven things like that in a game and maybe only one will work . . . We've always thrown to Donnie (Warren, tight end) or Art on (this formation).
"I think the Dash package is a good example of what can happen in football. Things can be added to work off of (a formation). Add a pump; hit Donnie across field, add a screen pass . . . We didn't create the play. Actually, (quarterbacks coach Jerry) Rhome had it and used it with (quarterback Jim) Zorn at Seattle."
Here, Gibbs smiled. It worked on the field just like it did on the blackboard. "Those are rare, the things you live for in coaching," he said.
Typically, Muhammad was more brief with his description. He said, "It felt great."
Gibbs said reserve cornerback Ricky Smith, who suffered a concussion in Sunday's game and was taken from the field by stretcher, spent another day at Arlington Hospital. He said that Smith's headaches have subsided and he is expected to be released from the hospital today. "If there are no repercussions, he'll start practicing again" when the team resumes workouts Wednesday, Gibbs said . . . The Redskins nominated fullback John Riggins (165 yards on 32 carries) and linebacker Monte Coleman (49-yard interception return for a touchdown) for the league's offensive and defensive players of the week, a team spokesman said . . . Gibbs said Brown (sprained ankle) might play at St. Louis, after missing the last two games.