All-pro wide receiver Charlie Brown, who missed the Washington Redskins' minicamp last week and was expected to be traded, may be returning to the team after all.
Craig Kelly, Brown's agent, said yesterday Brown "will report to training camp if he's still with the team."
Kelly, who has been in almost-constant contact with Brown the last two weeks, denied he had asked the Redskins to trade his client. He said Brown, who has two years remaining on his contract, wants to play for the Redskins if he can be assured he will regain his starting spot in training camp in July.
"Where do we go from here?" Kelly said. "Hey, we've only got one choice, and that's to go to training camp."
But Kelly did confirm that "five or six" teams have talked to the Redskins about obtaining Brown, who still is unavailable for comment. "I would expect him to be traded this week if he is going to be traded," Kelly said.
Coach Joe Gibbs refused to comment on the specifics of negotiations with Brown, or on his chances of returning.
"Hopefully, things can be worked out," Gibbs said. "I don't want to trade Charlie. We like Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown has done a lot for us. Charlie Brown is a great football player."
Gibbs also has been involved in negotiations with Gene Upshaw, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, concerning veteran free safety Mark Murphy, who missed the minicamp because of a contract dispute.
Upshaw, who said Murphy did not solicit his help, met with Gibbs for "a couple of hours" Tuesday.
"We're sort of in a holding pattern right now," Upshaw said. "There are certain things that Coach Gibbs is considering . . . We're just trying to find a middle ground."
Asked if the negotiations are headed in the direction of Murphy's possible return to the Redskins, Upshaw said, "I think so."
Murphy, first vice president of the NFLPA and a long-time friend of Upshaw, refused to comment yesterday. An all-pro who injured his knee last season and missed nine games, Murphy, 29, would like some or all of his contract guaranteed and is looking for assurances that he will play this season.
If negotiations fail, he is expected to retire and attend Georgetown law school this fall.
Kelly, breaking his self-imposed silence of the last two weeks, charged that the Redskins "don't appreciate" Brown and have been trying to trade him not just for the past week, but for the past five months.
"As of January, they've been shopping him around," Kelly said. "There was an active movement on the part of management to do it. Now, when they say we have asked for a trade, they are making it look like what we have done is legitimize it."
Gibbs vigorously denied Kelly's charges.
"He's incorrect. As far as us shopping around . . . we haven't traded players around here. We just don't trade players unless it's a situation that will help the player. I stand on that," Gibbs said.
"One of the problems in the NFL is that agents tell a player a team wants to trade him, and here we're not trading him."
Prior to Brown's absence from the minicamp, Gibbs said, "There was no serious trade talk" involving Brown. "We were not really pursuing a trade. Names like (his) come up in discussions, that's all."
Gibbs and Brown met twice in the offseason, Gibbs said, once soon after the season ended, then again May 13, two days before Brown was to report for his physical at the minicamp. Gibbs called the first meeting to "see how (Brown) felt after the tough things that happened last year," he said.
Brown, 26, missed the equivalent of 10 games last season with injuries to his ankle, knee, fibula and hamstring. He caught just 18 passes, down from a team-leading 78 in 1983. Then, he was used sparingly in the playoff loss to Chicago and complained about it.
So, Gibbs asked to meet with him.
"He said he still was happy playing here," Gibbs said. "Charlie was not asking to be traded. I felt assured Charlie was comfortable playing here."
However, rumors surfaced that Brown, a three-year veteran, was on the trading block. General Manager Bobby Beathard, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, denied the rumors several times in the last few months. The first time he confirmed a possible trade for Brown was last week, when Beathard said Kelly suggested the idea.
Gibbs refused to comment on the second meeting, except to say it resulted in a "misunderstanding" that ultimately led to the present negotiation problems.
Kelly, who did not attend either meeting, said Brown told him he asked Gibbs, "Am I starting?
" 'I want you, Gibbs, to tell the press I am starting.' That's what Brown said to Gibbs . . . Then Gibbs starts dancing around the room with him. A vote of confidence is such a simple thing to do. But by Gibbs not categorically saying he would start, we assume he's not going to start," Kelly said.
Gibbs confirmed he left the meeting believing Brown would report for his physical. Brown, meanwhile, went to a telephone at Redskin Park and called Kelly in Columbia, S.C.
"I'm not starting," Brown said to Kelly.
"Right then was the split," Kelly said. "If he said, 'Charlie Brown, you're the one who will start until Calvin Muhammad beats you out,' that would have been fine."
Now, Kelly said, there is "a lack of trust on both sides. How you get that sweetened up, I don't know."
Gibbs said he doesn't see it that way. "Neither Charlie nor I are talking about that (second) meeting. After the first meeting, we made the decision not to trade Charlie. We were looking forward to having a receivers corps that strikes fear in the hearts of everybody.
"Believe me, we do appreciate Charlie Brown."