The season had been running past Washington Redskins strong safety Tony Peters long before the St. Louis Cardinals' Roy Green did for that 83-yard touchdown last Sunday.
"I haven't really done anything so far," Peters said yesterday, "and that really upsets me . . . I feel like I'm taking a spot on the roster and I'm not contributing like I want to."
The 1984 season has been nothing less than eight weeks of frustration for Peters. During all of the pass-inflicted suffering by the Redskins last year, a distant voice seemed to cry out, "If only Tony Peters were here."
The truth is, the same distant voice might still be crying out. Peters still is suffering from a muscle pull in his lower abdomen that he says he incurred while lifting weights in August. He admits that he has not been able to play this season with the fury that became his trademark in 1982.
Peters again did not practice yesterday and he is not expected to play against the New York Giants Sunday in the Meadowlands. Rest is required and Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday that it could be several weeks before Peters is able to return to alternating play situations with Ken Coffey. For now, Coffey will play all downs.
"I send a message to the muscle and it has a slow reaction," said Peters, 31. Peters said he only was able to do five situps last Monday before the muscle cramped. This week, Peters said he is able to do 20.
Defensive coach Richie Petitbon said after the Cardinals' Green had slipped past Peters for the long touchdown Sunday, "(Peters) has got to get better (physically) because we can't afford plays like that. That play shouldn't have gone for a touchdown."
"Looking back, I probably should have played it a lot differently knowing what (St. Louis) had been trying to do," Peters said. "The thing about not playing and having injuries is you worry so much about them that you tend to take yourself out of the game mentally. I think that that's one of the biggest effects it's had on me. And going in to play (only) on first down and not the whole game, you kind of lose yourself, in a sense.
"When I sit back and analyze it, knowing Green and knowing the speed he has, I probably should have given him a couple more yards off the line . . . I should have just said, 'If the guy catches a pass in front of me, great, but he won't make a touchdown.' When he made his move, I was a little hesitant on my drive (after him) . . . I should have played it smarter."
When Peters did not play in the 35-7 victory at Indianapolis earlier this month, it was the first injury-related absence in his nine-year career. Several players privately suggested at the time that perhaps Peters had been benched. Petitbon said Peters simply was being rested. "The kid's got a muscle pull," Petitbon said at the time.
Peters became angry over the situation. Now, he says, "I knew what the real deal was. That was totally speculation . . . People didn't know what I was going through physically.
"A coach asked me, 'How's it going?' I said, 'It's better.' He said, 'But you always say that.' Well, it is better. If he only knew what I was going through before, how painful it was."
Peters, who always has been known for his aggressiveness and toughness, says he played one entire season at Cleveland with a painful wrist injury and another with a turf toe injury that made him limp noticeably. "But I'm not an ironman or a superman," he says. "I realize how fortunate and blessed I was all of those years.
"I can go out and play and be in a little bit of pain. I tried that two weeks ago against Dallas."
That was after he had had a week's rest and the injury appeared to have improved. The problem is, Peters says, the injury has not improved further.
"What I'm saying is, it had progressed to a point (before the Dallas game), say maybe 85 percent, and it's stopped right there and it hasn't gotten any better. I still feel it when I'm running, but it's not as tight as before. There's not as much pain as before. It's a slight pain, but it's enough to affect me."
Peters' career with the Redskins has gone full cycle since he was acquired from Cleveland in exchange for two draft picks in 1979: he began by platooning with veteran all-pro Ken Houston, playing against the pass; he reached his Redskins' peak in 1982 when he was selected to the Pro Bowl; he missed all of last year when he was suspended for admitting guilt to cocaine trafficking charges; now, he alternates play sitations with another Ken (Coffey), playing against the run, this time.
"It's kind of tough if you can't run," Petitbon said. "It's going to take time for Tony to heal. That's the only sure way. I keep hoping it will get better. It probably will, if we have enough time."
"I think Tony started off in camp with a hamstring (pull) and that slowed him down," Gibbs said. "Then he turned around and had a groin pull and that spread into his stomach. He played with it because we had Kenny (Coffey) out. I don't think that Tony ever got back into a groove. Of course, being out for a year, that takes something out, too. I just think it kept Tony from becoming fully healthy and now it's just a constant nagging thing."
His goal for the season is simple: "For me to get my health this week, to come back and play with some electricity, some fire, you know, some freedom of movement."
Through it all, Peters figures with a smile, "You always know that there's a tomorrow and that you'll be better off then."