After losing the football in the third quarter of Monday night's 44-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, running back George Rogers says he returned to the Washington sideline in time to hear an incredulous fan in Texas Stadium tell the person next to him, "Redskins never fumble the football."
During his four seasons with the New Orleans Saints, the same almost could have been said of Rogers. Last year, for example, he lost the ball just twice in 239 carries. Monday's miscue, however, was the fourth time he's fumbled since joining the Redskins, the first three in preseason games.
"That was the first thing they stressed, too, holding on to the football. I guess I've just outdone myself," Rogers said yesterday at Redskin Park. "Things have got to get better. I ain't no fumbler, though the people who've seen the last four or five games wouldn't believe it."
Rogers doesn't quite know what to make of his problem, which has been made especially difficult by coming at a time when his reputation as a hard-charging runner is in danger.
Feeling your way isn't standard operating procedure for a man who gained 4,267 yards in his first four seasons in the NFL, but Rogers has been slow to flash that form.
In the preseason, he carried 36 times for 142 yards, a 3.9 average. In Dallas Monday, Rogers gained 47 yards on 13 attempts.
Part of the problem has been Rogers' adjustment to his new environment. "They say good things come to people who wait. Well, I guarantee you I've been waiting," he said. "The offensive line has been doing their jobs, I just haven't done mine. The holes are there. A couple of times they (Dallas) blitzed and one man brought me down.
"That's uncharacteristic of me, too, but they're (the defenders) pros, too. They've got a job to do."
The question has been raised as to whether Rogers is trying too hard to do his job and is suffering as a result. Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs doesn't think so, saying Rogers' problems, particularly his fumbles, are "the odds or whatever.
"It's just one of those things that happens, although he did sign a blood oath today that it won't happen again."
"I can carry the ball without fumbling it, believe it or not. I just have to do it," Rogers said.
Rogers' fumble against Dallas didn't appear noticeably different from a second-quarter play in which the Cowboys' Tim Newsome lost the ball -- which the Redskins recovered -- only to have the officials rule that he was downed before the fumble. Newsome scored on the next play.
"Yeah, I saw Newsome's play," Rogers said. "After I lost the ball I kind of jumped up and said to the ref, 'And that one was a fumble, huh?' "
Redskins backfield coach Don Breaux said Rogers "isn't totally in sync with us yet, he's not grooved into our offense," referring specifically to a missed handoff attempt from quarterback Joe Theismann. "You can go through things and go through things, but when you get into a big game, things don't always go like you want them to.
"But as eager as he is and as enthusiastic as he is to do things properly, it won't take him long."
In the opening game of the 1984 season, Rogers rushed for 102 yards and scored two touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons. Unexpectedly, though, those were the only two touchdowns and the only 100-yard game of the year for Rogers, who found himself platooned with Earl Campbell, a favorite of New Orleans Coach Bum Phillips.
Ironically, it is Phillips Rogers cites today as helping him know how to resolve his current woes. "Bum always told us that hard work and good times go together but that the hard work had to come first," Rogers said. "When times get hard I can get down and get hard with them, too, and that's what I'm doing now. I guarantee you I'm only a couple of steps away."
The Redskins announced yesterday the signing of running back/ kick returner Ken Jenkins. Running back Michael Morton was released to make room for Jenkins.
According to Gibbs, Jenkins, a native of Wheaton who attended Landon High School in Bethesda, was "someone our guys knew about and were high on.
"It was nothing that Michael did or didn't do; in fact, he did a good job. We just felt that Jenkins was someone that we liked to have."
In two seasons with the Detroit Lions, Jenkins gained 1,690 all-purpose yards before being released Sept. 2. His biggest moment came against the Philadelphia Eagles last Nov. 4. In that game, Jenkins gained 281 yards (128 receiving, 76 rushing and 77 on kickoff returns).
Gibbs said Jenkins probably will return kicks and play running back in passing situations, like Keith Griffin . . .
The team said John Riggins (strained hamstring) is probable for Sunday's game against the Houston Oilers . . . Guard Russ Grimm watched yesterday's practice because of back spasms . . . Linebacker Pete Cronan started the two-plus-hour session but left early for treatment of his right hamstring.