The agent for Kelvin Bryant, the U.S. Football League rushing star, recently began exploring ways to immediately move Bryant into the National Football League. What makes this interesting for the Washington Redskins is that they own his NFL rights.
But just as quickly as the affair began, it seems to have ended. About two weeks ago, the Baltimore Stars gave Bryant's agent permission to hold preliminary discussions with NFL teams, even though he has two years left on his five-year contract with the Stars.
Earlier this week, however, the Redskins received a letter from the Stars noting that permission for any NFL team to speak with Bryant has been rescinded. Bryant, 25, is the USFL's No. 2 all-time leading rusher, behind Herschel Walker, and was named the most valuable player in the league title game last season.
General Manager Bobby Beathard of the Redskins said yesterday that the letter is "insignificant; meaningless as far as I'm concerned."
Beathard said the Redskins, regardless of the letter, will not discuss a contract with either Bryant or his agent, Perry Deering, until the running back becomes a free agent. Beathard said when Deering contacted him recently about Bryant, he told the agent "we aren't interested.
"We're just not going to meddle in anything like that," Beathard said. "The status on that as far as we know is that (Bryant) is under contract."
The Stars sent a letter to Deering, dated Feb. 24, notifying him that he could no longer discuss Bryant's future with an NFL team. Copies of the letter, signed by Myles Tanenbaum, the Stars' managing general partner, and Carl Peterson, the club's president, were sent to Beathard and to the NFL and USFL offices.
"Why would the Redskins want him?" Peterson asked rhetorically. "They have got George Rogers and John Riggins. What do they need Kelvin Bryant for? To put him at wide receiver?"
Peterson said that Deering contacted him before the USFL owners' meeting, held in New York on Feb. 18, and said "he wanted to test the waters a little bit.
"I told him that he could have discussions, but no negotiations," Peterson said. "In other words, no numbers being talked about and no contracts being signed."
Asked what other kind of contract-related discussions exist, Peterson simply said, " 'Bobby Beathard, are you interested in Kelvin Bryant?' "
The USFL also has filed a $1.3 billion antitrust suit against the NFL, enjoining the league from appearing on all three major networks. The trial is scheduled to begin in the middle of April, and many believe the future of the USFL is dependent on a courtroom victory.
One USFL official, requesting anonymity, speculated yesterday that the Stars may have given Deering consent to hold discussions with NFL teams about both Bryant and Stars defensive lineman William Fuller (also represented by Deering) because both players reportedly have substantial contracts. Unloading their salaries and receiving a buyout payment, in addition, would greatly ease the team's financial burden.
However, sources indicated that when Tanenbaum formed a partnership with Stephen Ross, a New York land developer, at the league meeting 10 days ago, the Stars gained financial strength.