The Washington Redskins' tumultuous minicamp ended yesterday, not with a bang or a whimper, but with a heavy sigh of relief.
Eleventh-hour negotiations, surprising play-me-or-trade-me (or let-me-retire) decisions, and perhaps the sorest knee in pro football shoved the usual thrills, spills and Riggo Drills into the shadows at Redskin Park.
Now that it's over, the Redskins have two months until training camp opens July 18 in Carlisle, Pa., to relax, vacation and try to figure out just how damaging the affairs of the last week have been.
The rate of attrition was steep. In one tough day Wednesday, the Redskins lost two veteran all-pros. Free safety Mark Murphy, caught up in a dispute over a guaranteed contract, didn't show up at the minicamp. Although he hasn't made an official announcement, he is expected to retire from football and attend Georgetown law school this fall.
Wide receiver Charlie Brown, upset over his lack of playing time last season, also didn't show, and probably will be traded, the Redskins say.
General Manager Bobby Beathard said yesterday that although he has spoken with several National Football League teams about trading Brown, "No one has offered any players" in return.
Beathard said he doesn't expect a trade to take place right away. "I think it will be a week, at least, before we do anything," he said. He would not say which teams are interested in Brown.
The Redskins also lost defensive tackle Bob Slater, their top draft pick a year ago who has yet to play a regular-season down, for another season when he underwent reconstructive surgery on his oft-injured left knee Tuesday.
Coach Joe Gibbs, who pronounced himself quite pleased overall with the progress of his team, especially the rookies and free agents, said his only "disappointments" were "those other things."
Life without Murphy and Brown in 1985 actually might not be all that different than life with them in 1984. Neither was healthy; Murphy missed nine games with a knee injury, Brown missed the equivalent of 10 with a series of injuries. Both lost their starting jobs and did not regain them, which led, ultimately, to their spring of discontent.
"You hate to lose someone like Mark," said Richie Petitbon, the assistant head coach for defense. "But we played without him most of last year and we'll play without him this year. We have a lot of competition back there (in the secondary). We feel we have a real healthy situation."
Waves of reinforcements swept in during minicamp, led by fifth-round draft choice Raphel Cherry, who is expected to play free safety, and eighth-round pick Barry Wilburn, who will play strong safety.
With starters Curtis Jordan and Ken Coffey returning, Petitbon feels no need at this point to move cornerback Vernon Dean to safety.
"It would be very, very premature to move him off the corner," Petitbon said.
The Redskins seem to be taking Brown's loss a bit harder.
"Teamwise, it does hurt us," said reserve Mark McGrath, who admits he stands a much better chance to make the team with Brown gone. "We are going from the best three-wide receiver offense in football to, well, we don't know what will happen."
Art Monk, who caught an NFL-record 106 passes last season, and Calvin Muhammad, another typical Beathard find who caught 42, aren't a bad start. Gary Clark, the Jacksonville Bulls' leading receiver in the U.S. Football League a year ago, impressed the coaches in the minicamp and could emerge as the third receiver.
But Brown was conspicuous by his absence. "We were looking forward to this camp with three or four great ones (receivers)," said Charley Taylor, who coaches the receivers, "and that didn't happen."
Slater's loss, although presumably temporary, has an aftertaste of its own.
"He was going to be a big part of our plans," said Torgy Torgeson, the defensive line coach. "We thought he was going to have an impact on us this season. Now, our depth is not going to be as strong as it would have been."
As Gibbs likes to say, "these things just open up opportunities for some other guys." In this case, 12th-round draft choice Dean Hamel and free agent Dan Coleman seem to be the chief beneficiaries.
Seven-year veteran defensive tackle Perry Brooks is another. With tackle Dave Butz and defensive end Tom Beasley missing the minicamp due to contract problems, and with Slater injured, Brooks had little competition at minicamp. (Beasley will move to tackle, Torgeson said.)
That eventually may translate to another year as a Redskin.
"All I can say," Brooks said yesterday, "is that I'm still here."
Words the Redskins welcomed during this minicamp.