If it were possible to close our eyes for a moment and then reopen them to a full view of the Washington Redskins' training camp field at Carlisle, Pa., in July, things might look quite different than now.
You likely would see kicker Tony Zendejas, now with Los Angeles in the U.S. Football League, signed and giving Mark Moseley his most severe battle in 11 Redskins seasons.
And there are players you might not see. There remains the uncertainty whether John Riggins (lower back/hips) and Joe Washington (knee) will be able to return to their roles that Don Breaux, the coach of the running backs, has described as "the dull instrument we bludgeon them with (Riggins) and the rapier we cut them with (Washington)."
General Manager Bobby Beathard, for one, says he is operating under the assumption that neither Riggins, 35, nor Washington, 31, will return. "It would be very naive to assume that little Joe will come back with the style of running he has," Beathard said. "I don't know yet if he can physically do that." Washington, hampered by a bad knee, carried only 56 times and caught 13 passes this season.
Among those you likely would see, cornerback Vernon Dean might be moved to free safety, something coaches had considered before this season, but opted not to try.
Also, with the expected return to health of all-pro center Jeff Bostic (knee injury), it's likely you would see center/guard Rick Donnalley moved to starting right guard, now the spot of veteran Ken Huff, 31. Such a move would give the Hogs a tackle-to-tackle corps of five players in their fifth or sixth professional seasons, the prime years.
Among those who might be missing, tackle George Starke, 36, and pass-rushing specialist Tony McGee, 35, are struggling with pained knees and aren't expected to be able to make it through another season.
It also is quite possible that kick returner Mike Nelms, 29, strong safety Tony Peters, 31, and free safety Mark Murphy, 29 -- three of the most crucial players in the Redskins' Super Bowl-winning season of 1982 -- might not be around, either.
For veterans such as defensive tackle Perry Brooks, 30, and special teams captain Pete Cronan, 29, annual training-camp struggles to make the team likely will continue.
Typically, Cronan smiled when asked about his future and said, "They are going to have to drag me out of here. Ask my wife. I'm always the last to leave the party."
Beathard insists that the roster is not in need of a wrecking ball following Sunday's 23-19 loss to Chicago in an NFC semifinal playoff game at RFK Stadium.
He lists the team's priorities, to be acquired by draft and/or trade, in this order: 1) running back, 2) secondary (cornerback and free safety), 3) offensive tackle and 4) outside linebacker.
"We're like most teams in pro football; the things we need, we aren't going to get all at once," he said from Palo Alto, Calif., where he is scouting the East-West Shrine college all-star game and where the Redskins had hoped their season would end Jan. 20, in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium.
"One of the great things about this team is that we've needed several things all along, even when we've been to the last two Super Bowls, and our team has still been winning," Beathard said. "Even when people were calling us 'King,' we didn't want people to think that we were there. We kept saying, 'We're playing great and we are a good team, but there's still a ways to go.'
"Right now, we all know what we need. We have got our work cut out for us. We've got to get back up there."
Among the 13 Redskins eligible to become free agents in February, the most prominent are defensive tackle Dave Butz, offensive tackle Mark May, Moseley, Dean and Riggins.
Beathard has said he would like to re-sign Butz, 34, for two years. He said negotiations will begin with Butz and May "as soon as the (college) all-star games are over." He said talks already are under way to re-sign Dean.
Asked about Moseley's future with the team, Beathard said, "Don't know. I'll wait until the evaluation meetings (in February). I'm certain right now that we'll go ahead and negotiate with Mark like we will with every other player we plan to have back."
Moseley, 36, is the league's second-oldest kicker (Minnesota's Jan Stenerud is 41) and is the only kicker to win the league's most valuable player award (1982). He has said that he feels he can kick "five more years." He succeeded on 24 of 31 field goal attempts this season (77 percent), but missed a 41-yard kick that could have pulled the Redskins to 23-22 with 6:11 left against the Bears Sunday.
The Redskins drafted Zendejas in the first round of the National Football League's three-round supplemental draft of players in the USFL and Canada. The draft was held before this NFL season.
"From what I understand from his lawyer, Zendejas will be finished (with Los Angeles) in June, at the end of the USFL season," Beathard said. "Then we can enter into negotiations." Would the Redskins try to sign him then? "Sure, assuming he's free."
Beathard said this year's college draft is well-stocked in linemen. He said he will look for two cornerbacks, which might indicate that Dean's potential move to free safety next season is more than just a thought.
Curtis Jordan started at free safety much of this season, replacing Murphy when the former all-pro injured his knee in the second week of the season. Jordan played well enough that, when Murphy returned for the final month of the season, Jordan remained the starter.
Coaches feel Dean would add speed at free safety and could be a hard hitter, too. The real question would be whether Dean could handle the responsibility of signal-calling at free safety.
Beathard said a quality running back likely would come from a trade rather than the draft. Not only are there few good running backs in this draft, but Beathard has traded away his third, fourth and fifth picks.
Nelms has returned 384 punts (with only three fair catches) and 191 kickoffs in his eight-year professional career. His numbers this season (20.1 yards on kickoff returns, 8.7 on punts) rated below his career averages and in the lower third in the league. The consensus is that while he can still wiggle and twist a three-yard punt return into perhaps a nine-yard return, he no longer has the breakaway speed to turn a 10-yard return into perhaps a 50-yarder.
"I haven't had the holes this year," said Nelms, who has endured numerous injury-induced changes among his blockers this season. "My season is always reflected in the help I get. How much longer can I go on? I always take it year by year."
Donnalley was praised by coaches for his efforts in replacing Bostic since the ninth game of the season. "I would like to play center (next year). I feel it's my natural position, but I did start seven games last year at guard for the Steelers," Donnalley said about his likely move to right guard. "But I guess I definitely want to play anywhere where I can start."
Quarterback Jim Hart, 41, who was paid a $250,000 salary to throw seven passes and to lend 19 years of pro experience, said he would like to return next season. Murphy said he will decide on his future in the calm of the offseason.
Peters has said he will return, although coaches simply don't know if this all-pro of 1982 can recover from missing all of 1983 and nearly all of this season.