The joke among the Redskins is that a party of linebackers and special teamers should be dispatched on a Rambo-like mission into the Jaguar jungles of Vienna, Va.

John Riggins clearly needs help.

Dressed in full Riggo garb, the Redskins raiders would machine-gun their way through Beltway gridlock, supermarket lines and other suburban fortresses. Once spotted, their full-of-it fullback would be Hogtied and brought here for safekeeping.

"Gotta rescue him from civilization," linebacker Pete Cronan said with a laugh.

Once again, the real world has nailed Riggo for a loss. For the second time this year, he has been a monumental embarrassment to a team dependent on community goodwill and a coach as straight as a steel arrow.

On Jan. 30, Riggins was the Bore with a Snore during Vice President George Bush's speech at the Washington Press Club's Salute to Congress. Before a nap just slightly less renowned than Rip Van Winkle's, Riggins told a Supreme Court justice to "loosen up, Sandy, baby."

Six days ago, Riggins was arrested in Reston, Va., for being drunk in public.

He's innocent this time, Riggins insists, adding: "It could only happen to me."

Most assuredly.

Coach Joe Gibbs will not allow revealing trips by reporters inside his head on the Riggins matter, although he surely is livid.

Gibbs all but sermonizes to the Redskins about their needing to abide by an especially lofty level of clean living. Then his most visible, and perhaps valuable, player seems to act like an all-pro jerk.

"I'd have been gone the first time," a marginal Redskin said. "Is there a double standard? Of course."

The Redskins do not require a Breathalyzer test. All they ask of Riggins is that he run a reasonably straight line 25 or so times each week.

Same with me.

I worry that Riggins has a drinking problem, but I refuse to climb high on any moral ladder. I feel the way Lincoln did when he replied to charges about a wildly successful General Grant drinking too much whiskey:

"Get me the brand, and I'll send a barrel to my (other) generals."

Ain't many white-wine drinkers in football's foxholes.

In 13 years, Riggins has run dozens of teetotalers out of the National Football League, some with his cleat imprint stamped to their chests.

I hold Riggins to the same standard of conduct as humans who do not whack the bejabbers out of each other for control of a pig's bladder.

As a newspaper guy, the first public servant I ever met was a minor Pittsburgh official with a fat body and a foul mouth who sometimes conducted business in his undershirt.

I watched in slack-jawed awe once when a reporter rival all but poured half a bottle of whiskey into his belly, then almost immediately dictated about 20 paragraphs of a reasonably complicated story from notes.

How often did Babe Ruth arrive at the ballpark hung over? Or Walter Hagen to the first tee? Just guessing, but I imagine this arrest puts Riggins even with Billy Kilmer and about five behind Sonny Jurgensen.

During the NCAA basketball Final Four this year, I was part of a private tour of the University of Kentucky's imposing facilities.

Near the end, the host smiled and said: "Gotta show you one more place." In the coach's dressing area of a gym since abandoned, the man opened the door of a single lavatory stall and pointed inside.

"Just about every day," he said, "the greatest coach in the history of college basketball (Adolph Rupp) would grab a nip of bourbon, go in there and map out his practice plans."

I didn't witness the Riggins snooze. Still, I doubt that I would have been more offended than the time one of our country's most respected leaders made a slurred-speech fool of himself during a Touchdown Club presentation.

How I figure it is that we've had presidents who have comported themselves a whole lot worse than Riggins. To say nothing of scoundrels among lesser of the country's trustees.

Generally in pro sport, a fellow is allowed to be as naughty off the field as he is productive on it. Were Riggins anything but an extraordinary runner, he would have been out of the NFL long before he even heard of Gibbs.

In the past year or so, there have been all manner of rumors about Riggins, all of them involving too much to drink and one or two of them whispered by the Redskins family.

One wonders if the Redskins might even include motivations to stay out of trouble in the contract now being negotiated with Riggins.

In truth, the usual incentives should do nicely. Plus the large presence of his fullback heir, George Rogers.

Although it employs a stable of public-relations wizards to suggest otherwise, the NFL can be as bottom-line cold as most other businesses.

When, say, a Diesel carries a team to victory in the Super Bowl, nobody much cares what goes into its tank. Or that it burns only the highest and purest octane when it breaks down. sport, a fellow is allowed to be as naughty off the field as he is productive on it. Were Riggins anything but an extraordinary runner, he would have been out of the NFL long before he even heard of Gibbs.

In the past year or so, there have been all manner of rumors about Riggins, all of them involving too much to drink and one or two of them whispered by the Redskins family.

One wonders if the Redskins might even include motivations to stay out of trouble in the contract now being negotiated with Riggins.

In truth, the usual incentives should do nicely. Plus the large presence of his fullback heir, George Rogers.

Although it employs a stable of public-relations wizards to suggest otherwise, the NFL can be as bottom-line cold as most other businesses.

When, say, a Diesel carries a team to victory in the Super Bowl, nobody much cares what goes into its tank. Or that it burns only the highest and purest octane when it breaks down.