The Washington Redskins, trying to come to terms with their two unsigned veterans, have arranged for another meeting with John Riggins this week and have decided to cut Dave Butz's signing bonus by $1,000 for every day he does not report, starting Wednesday.
The Redskins wanted to push Butz to agree to a two-year contract by today, sources said. Instead, they drew the ire of the National Football League Players Association and "disheartened" Butz, the veteran defensive tackle said by phone this evening.
Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA, said today he will investigate the Redskins' decision to reduce their offer to Butz and "may find grounds there" for action on behalf of Butz.
"This is totally out of line," Upshaw said. "This is ridiculous. We are going to look into it. Are the Redskins negotiating in good faith with Dave Butz?"
Upshaw said the players' collective bargaining agreement allows players who are absent from training camp to be fined up to $1,000 a day if they are under contract. Because Butz is a free agent, he is not bound to those rules, Upshaw said.
"It sounds to me more like the reverse of the situation they don't have the right to do," Upshaw said.
Butz said he did not request Upshaw's assistance. He refused to comment on the signing bonus reduction except to say, "That's an awful lot of money."
Butz said he did not plan to contact the Redskins tonight to discuss his contract.
The Redskins reportedly are offering Butz a $200,000 signing bonus, plus $325,000 for 1985 and $450,000 for 1986.
Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke declined to comment on Upshaw's statements. General Manager Bobby Beathard said the Redskins' action was not unprecedented.
"Several teams have done that," Beathard said. "We certainly can understand that Dave wasn't here on time, since he didn't have an offer before training camp opened.
"But it's Dave's decision now whether to come in or not come in."
Meanwhile, the meeting with Riggins, who last week turned down a one-year offer of about $1 million, according to sources, might take place as early as Thursday, Cooke said today.
"John Riggins is to call me Thursday and I will see him," Cooke said by phone from New York City, where he was on business. "We will start negotiations all over again when I meet with him on Thursday."
Riggins is reported to be asking for almost $1.5 million from the Redskins.
Riggins could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Doug Woloshin, said he remains optimistic that negotiations will conclude soon.
Riggins' absence from camp, along with his recent arrest on a drunk in public charge in Virginia, has left the Redskins wondering how long the 36-year-old running back will be in their plans.
Beathard said he spoke with officials of the San Diego Chargers last week to inquire about the availability of running back Tim Spencer, formerly of the U.S. Football League.
Beathard called the discussion "casual," adding that the sides never talked about what the Chargers would want in a trade. The Chargers later signed Spencer to a three-year contract.
Beathard also said the inquiry had no particular relation to the Riggins situation.
Spencer's Washington-based agent, Rick Bennett, said he initiated the discussions between the Redskins and the Chargers.
"I phoned (Beathard) a number of times and tried to bring it along," Bennett said, adding that he has been talking to Beathard about Spencer since April, before the Redskins obtained George Rogers in a trade with New Orleans.
For now at least, Rogers has become the Redskins' No. 1 running back, although the coaches still are bringing him along slowly in a new system.
Butz, speaking for the first time at length about his negotiations, called Cooke "a very, very tough person to negotiate with. At one time in the negotiations, he told Bobby he wanted to borrow some equipment and go a set of downs with me. He's still an aggressive businessman."
Butz said he believed he is "a team player."
"Unfortunately, this has happened to me. It's too bad. I think this affects team unity when it happens. You don't want mumbling and grumbling among the troops."
When asked if he might not play with the Redskins this season, Butz answered: "There's all kinds of possibilities. I wouldn't say no, I wouldn't say yes. They know I'm prepared to play for the Redskins. It has been in the past the best organization in the league."
Cooke said he was "surprised" that Butz "has not come back to the Redskins by now."
Added Cooke: "I hope he changes his mind very shortly."
Coach Joe Gibbs, who has been in contact with Cooke and Beathard concerning these negotiations, said he has talked to Riggins and Butz in the past two days, but declined to give specifics.
"That's out of my ballpark right now," he said.