A technicality in the National Football League's pension rules has delayed until today center Jeff Bostic's return to the Washington Redskins' active roster.
The Redskins plan to waive long snapper Doug Barnett to make room for Bostic, who is coming off injured reserve, but wanted Barnett, in his fourth year, to receive credit for a third game this season to be vested in the players' pension plan.
By waiting until today to waive Barnett, the Redskins are giving him that third game -- Sunday's 1 p.m. game with the New York Giants at the Meadowlands -- even though he will not play in it, barring a major change in plans.
A player waived Saturday does not clear waivers until Monday, said General Manager Bobby Beathard, and league rules say the player then receives credit toward his pension for that Sunday game.
If Barnett had been waived before today, he likely would have cleared waivers and would not have received credit for the game he needs.
The only surprise in this well-orchestrated decision would come if Bostic did not become the Redskins' first activation off injured reserve this season.
Although left tackle Joe Jacoby moved well on his strained right knee in practice yesterday and is expected to start Sunday, Bostic's return after reconstructive knee surgery is considered crucial to a line known for its interchangeable parts.
Without Bostic, there are just seven offensive linemen on the 45-man roster, and none has a very steady job. Secure, yes. Steady, no.
It's as easy to follow as a game of musical chairs. Officially, Russ Grimm is listed as the left guard. But he played left tackle more than anything else this week in practice, and also is listed as the backup center.
"It's by design," Beathard said. "We like our line to be able to do things like that. In fact, you have to because of injuries. It's a must."
Imagine the confusion if the Redskins' blockers went on "What's My Line?" Jacoby could enter and "Sign in, please," and reveal that as a rookie in 1981, he actually played left guard for awhile before becoming a Pro Bowl tackle.
Center Rick Donnalley also plays guard; rookie Raleigh McKenzie backs up everyone, and right tackle Mark May, perhaps dizzily, once played all four guard and tackle positions in a game.
"We just have the ability to plug in somebody and not lose a step," May said yesterday. "Last year, we had that ability until there were just too many sockets gone."
When injuries decimated the line in the playoffs, the Chicago Bears sacked Joe Theismann seven times in the Redskins' 23-19 loss.
Now, injuries nag the line again, in the form of guard R.C. Thielemann's torn knee ligaments, guard Ken Huff's broken left big toe and Jacoby's knee.
But the difference this season is, so far, that the same players start that began the season as starters.
"This group has been together for a long time," said Coach Joe Gibbs.
In fact, three starters -- Jacoby, Grimm and May -- arrived the same year Gibbs did, 1981.
"We're interchangeable, but it's not quite like last season with Mo Towns (forced to play in the Chicago playoff game after missing the regular season -- his first with the Redskins -- with a broken ankle)," Gibbs said. "Now, someone we move in has been here."
That someone this Sunday undoubtedly will be Bostic, who, in his sixth year, is expected to do the long snapping and back up the starters at center and guard.
"Just so I don't play tackle," said Bostic, who said he had received no word about his status as of late afternoon yesterday.
Despite its variety, this line is not exactly a patchwork.
"It's a very unusual group," Gibbs said. "Talk to Jeff Bostic, Rick Donnalley, Mark May -- these are bright, sharp guys. I stress this to Bobby (Beathard). We are developing smart guys, and they're the ones who will play.
"The other kinds of guys you just end up getting mad at or disappointed with."
Gibbs, apparently not satisfied with what he was watching, stopped practice yesterday and called his players together for a few minutes in the middle of the field.
"I was just talking to everybody," he said.
Gibbs said running back George Rogers (strained left shoulder) "looks 100 percent" and will be back in the normal rotation with John Riggins Sunday at the Meadowlands in a game matching two of the NFC East's three 3-3 teams.
The Redskins practiced on their grass field today even though Giants Stadium has artificial turf. Why?
"With Joe's knee and a couple other guys hurting, I didn't want to go back on the turf again," Gibbs said.
Beathard said the Redskins have signed linebacker Joe Krakoski for next season. Krakoski was released Oct. 7 after less than a week with the team. The Redskins also may sign Barnett for next season once he officially is released.