The Washington Redskins yesterday traded rookie cornerback Tory Nixon to San Francisco and linebacker Larry Kubin to Buffalo, and waived quarterback Babe Laufenberg, running back/kick returner Michael Morton and wide receiver Joe Phillips to reach their final 45-player roster.
This year's team includes 10 players not on the active roster when the Redskins played the Chicago Bears in last year's playoff game.
Each move made yesterday elicited a different emotion from the Redskins.
They were relieved to get rid of Nixon, their top draft choice who "just never looked sharp," Coach Joe Gibbs said.
The 49ers will give up their sixth-round pick in the 1986 draft if Nixon stays on the active roster for three games. The terms of the trade change to a fourth-round choice if he plays 60 percent of the time on defense and special teams. If Nixon lasts fewer than three games, the 49ers will owe the Redskins nothing.
Gibbs and General Manager Bobby Beathard said Nixon perhaps thought he had this team made by virtue of his lofty position (33rd pick overall) in the draft.
The Redskins believe they have given Kubin, a three-year veteran who hasn't received much of a chance to play behind middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz, a fresh start in a 3-4 defense, where he may well start this weekend.
By trading Kubin for no higher than an eighth-round draft choice, they once again have kept eight-year veteran Pete Cronan, who returned for training camp in July despite Gibbs' warnings that things didn't look good for him to make the team this season.
"I'm going to tell Gibbs that if that was designed to motivate me, he did a helluva job," Cronan said, smiling broadly.
The Redskins were angry to have to part with Laufenberg, their potential third quarterback who they figure was a victim of the league's offseason decision to drop four players from the 49-man roster. This means Jay Schroeder becomes the No. 2 quarterback.
"It's just terrible that a guy like Babe Laufenberg can't be on this team," said Beathard.
Laufenberg agreed as he walked out of Redskin Park with his belongings in a cardboard box.
"It's nothing personal with Coach Gibbs, but I flat out think I played better (than Schroeder)," Laufenberg said. "I can't look back and say he did better than me. The New England game (his emotional, two-touchdown, 200-yard performance in a last-second 37-36 victory) didn't change anything for me. Here I am in the soup lines."
And the Redskins kept their fingers crossed that Phillips and Morton would slip through waivers and be available to be re-signed, perhaps as soon as today, if one of three injured Redskins is placed on injured reserve.
Defensive end Steve Hamilton's injured right shoulder is "scary," Beathard said. Head trainer Bubba Tyer said the pinched nerve in Hamilton's shoulder is causing his right thumb and index finger occasionally to "go numb."
If Hamilton is placed on injured reserve, he will miss a minimum of four weeks before he can return, according to league rules. "Hamilton could qualify for that," Tyer said. "Frankly, he could use the rest."
The Redskins also are concerned about defensive tackle Tom Beasley's injured big toe, and, to a much lesser degree, wide receiver/punt returner Gary Clark's sprained right knee. Beasley and Clark practiced yesterday and Clark said he "felt pretty fast."
It was no surprise that the Redskins traded Nixon to the 49ers, a team that expressed interest in him when he was involved in his two-week contract holdout during training camp.
Nixon is expected to become the 49ers' seventh defensive back, at least until free safety Tom Holmoe, who has a separated shoulder, returns from injured reserve.
If Kubin stays on the Buffalo roster three games, the Redskins will receive a 10th-round 1986 selection, which will be upgraded to an eighth-round choice under the same circumstances as the Nixon deal. If he doesn't stay on the roster for three games, the Redskins again receive nothing.
Beathard said the Redskins would have kept Nixon if there had been a 49-man roster. But he and Gibbs blamed Nixon for missing most of the team's informal spring workouts because of weddings and his move east.
"It really was Tory Nixon's fault," Beathard said. "It seemed like Tory came to us unprepared. It was a lesson he learned at our expense."
The Redskins have traded away $350,000 in signing bonuses in the last week: kicker Tony Zendejas took his $150,000 with him to Houston; Nixon takes his $200,000 to San Francisco.
Meanwhile, Kubin seems to be arriving in Buffalo at a most opportune time. Inside linebacker Eugene Marve has missed most of training camp with an injured knee, so the Bills have been furiously searching for replacements.
"I'm anxious to get a chance to play more than I have been here," Kubin said. "I truly think I'm made a little better for the 3-4. My heart was ready to move on."
The Redskins had been considering placing linebacker Stuart Anderson or Cronan on waivers, but changed their minds when they agreed to keep Anderson for his youth and Cronan as a reliable backup at middle linebacker.
And don't forget the special teams, Cronan's trademark. "Pete Cronan plays all special teams," Gibbs said. "Larry Kubin did not play all special teams."
Cronan is the team's long snapper on field goals, extra points and punts, at least until Jeff Bostic returns from injured reserve. "I'll even do windows," Cronan said. "Anything to justify my existence for another week."
As Cronan told and retold his tale of joy to reporters, Laufenberg packed and left, then came back twice to say good-bye to teammates.
"Coach Gibbs saw something in Jay," Laufenberg said. "I'm really confused. I've spent too much time and put too much work into this. (He has been here three years, Schroeder two.) After the Raiders game (in which he did not play), I was thinking my future wasn't here. Maybe I made a mistake in not saying anything."
The Redskins tried to trade Laufenberg yesterday but found no takers. Most teams kept only two quarterbacks.
Beathard said an injury to Joe Theismann or Schroeder would bring Laufenberg back "immediately," but if both were injured in one game, it's likely punter Jeff Hayes would replace them.
Gibbs said he had an "open mind" in the competition. "Babe did everything he could do," Gibbs said. "These were two guys who had great camps, but we just couldn't go with three quarterbacks."
Laufenberg wasn't expecting any phone calls any time soon, from the Redskins or another team.
The Redskins also waived offensive tackle Kelly Thomas, whom they obtained last month in a trade with Tampa Bay for cornerback Anthony Washington, and rookie free agent running back Vince Hall. Both were on injured reserve.