I was curious to meet him," George Rogers was saying of John Riggins. And nervous. As one who wants to share Riggins' turf, not intrude on it, Rogers assumed his should be the first step toward friendship.

"I didn't know how to do it," he admitted, "so I waited till his back was turned (after a harmless running play against no opposition late yesterday morning) and tapped him on the back."

When Riggins swung around, Rogers all but grabbed his hand. He shook it heartily, then patted Riggins on the arm to make certain his gesture was accepted as sincere.

"I said I was pleased to meet him," Rogers related, "and he said it was his pleasure to meet me. I said, 'No, I'm pleased to meet you.' I wanted to get off on the right foot."

Both did.

If they may never become close, neither will Riggins and Rogers be rivals. At least not in the Sonny-vs.-Billy sense. Fact is, Riggins all but ordered the Redskins to acquire someone to help him tote the running load.

In so many words, he told them in the offseason: "I need help."

All anyone knows for sure now is how backfield relief is spelled: R-O-G-E-R-S. When it will be used, and in what doses, probably won't be determined for months.

"We'll let both of 'em tee it up and see how they wind up after the preseason," Coach Joe Gibbs said. He is treating them as equals, which they clearly are not just yet.

Until his body tells him -- or the coaches -- otherwise, Riggins is the regal Redskin. His legs fetched them Super Bowl glory. His style, though not necessarily his choice of public napping sites, is much admired.

Riggins was the one resplendent in a bright blue warmup whereas everyone else was wearing company-issue burgundy and gold yesterday in practice. Rogers ran with the backup team.

"I respect him because he's lasted so long in the league (13 years)," Rogers said. "He's kept himself up."

Rogers also would be the junior partner on merit, for Riggins gained 325 more yards and carried the ball 88 more times at 35 than he did at 25.

Championships seem more important than records to Riggins, and Rogers surely will help carry the Redskins toward the playoffs.

Both fret some about the absence of Charlie Brown, or some other exceptional wide receiver who can keep defenses from cheating their way. There is a lot of time to get that matter resolved.

Redskin insiders were not at all surprised that Riggins chose to return. One reason is that few at his wage scale walk honorably, and safely, into the athletic sunset.

"He'll be back," an official predicted weeks ago, "because he's a locker room guy."


Locker room guy. The description clings to Riggins as tightly and comfortably as a jersey to a shoulder pad.

Probably, only other locker room guys fully understand -- and appreciate -- Riggins. Mostly, locker room guys postpone growing up as long as possible. They work at making life a laugh.

A locker room guy would knock your helmet off one hour and buy you a beer the next. He is more than a little bit rowdy and hard to tame. He's rarely serious, almost always bright and interesting, and once in a while a jerk.

The infamous Riggins snooze during Vice President Bush's speech very likely was the ultimate locker room guy stunt.

Locker room guys named Jurgensen, Kilmer, Talbert and McDole founded a social club on the Redskin Park grounds called the "5 O'Clock Club."

Only genuine locker room guys would need a separate clubhouse. And the 5 O'Clock Club began in a shed perhaps 50 yards from the main compound.

Surrounded by spare cleats, blocking sleds and other tools, the charter members gathered after tough times on the practice field to decide the fate of mankind over unsweetened grapefruit juice.

Or liquid a wee bit more exciting.

For quite a while, the 5 O'Clock Clubbers would suffer in pleasure. There being no electricity until last year, a few of the richest and most famous Washingtonians would huddle, deep in thought, by space heaters and a lantern.

When the Over The Hill Gang finally went over the hill, the 5 O'Clock Club was temporarily disbanded.

"Riggo rejuvenated it," a Redskin said.

And evidently helped cause its second demise. For whatever reasons, Gibbs has ordered the 5 O'Clock Club to convene somewhere else this year.

That may be partly due to the state in which Riggins left Redskin Park the day after the playoff loss to the Bears. He whirled his black Mercedes around the grassy practice area, then sailed into a 360-degree slide on the artificial-turf field.

"The odds were 5 to 1 he wouldn't make it through the gate," one witness recalled. "But it did. With room to spare on each side."

Interestingly, Riggins was first sighted at minicamp two days ago in a three-piece suit.

Nearly every Redskin at nearly every level, shakes his head in wonderment at Riggins. At his being so productive so old, and so uniquely stylish that a former Heisman Trophy winner worries about fumbling the introduction.