Washington Redskins running back John Riggins, still uncertain if he will retire or return for his 14th National Football League season, probably will not make up his mind until the Redskins' training camp in July and August.
The earliest Riggins would make a decision, according to those familiar with his situation, is in mid-May, during the Redskins' minicamp. Riggins, 35, was bothered by a back injury most of last season, during which he gained 1,239 yards.
"When he's out there running again, maybe then he will know," Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard said of the minicamp. Riggins, who is a free agent, is expected to attend.
"It's all a question of how he feels when he gets in his first extensive running with cutting," said Beathard.
But because Riggins is not expected to begin his intensive preseason workouts until after the minicamp, it's likely he won't make any decisions until sometime this summer.
"When he starts running, if his back begins flaring up again, then I don't think he'll be with us," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "He has defied the odds for so long, so how long can he go? I'm going to go with him until he says he can't. He may have 1,600 yards left in him."
Riggins was out of town until tonight and was unavailable for comment.
Last month, the Redskins thought Riggins might make a decision on retirement before the NFL draft, which is April 30. The Redskins still are in the market for a running back out of the draft or by trade, Beathard said, but they also are encouraged by Riggins' sporadic visits to the Redskin Park weight room.
"(Strength Coach) Dan Riley says he is working really well," Beathard said recently. Riley was out of town yesterday, but assistant John Dunn said when Riggins works out, he is able to do "the normal stuff" he usually does.
"He will really start concentrating (on conditioning) after the minicamp," Dunn said.
The Redskins naturally are very interested in Riggins' decision, but the mood at Redskin Park hardly is anxious.
"There is no time schedule," Beathard said. "I've been out of town and haven't talked to John."
"He can still play," said guard Russ Grimm. "It's just a matter of if the injury bothers him and hampers his play."
Around the weight room, no one asks Riggins what he is going to do, Dunn said. "When he's ready to make a decision, he'll let us know," Dunn said.
Sources have said the Redskins are upset about Riggins' behavior at a Washington Press Club dinner in January, when he told Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "Loosen up, Sandy baby." But the incident appears to have no bearing on Riggins' future with the team.
In fact, most in the organization go out of their way to deflect the issue.
"John's a man's man," Gibbs said. "All that matters is his decision. When he tells you something, he delivers. John's word has always been good to me."
Added Grimm: "He does things everyone else does, but they are blown out of proportion and in the limelight right away. The guy's 100 percent down to earth.
"He likes to play football and have a good time, and does it to the fullest."